Today’s missive is entitled ‘the state of the field’.
NKK Dance Centre (www.nkkdancecentre.com), which I am currently building in rural Siem Reap Cambodia, hosted a Tribal Crackling Wind dance workshop, the centre’s first ever workshop, on January 20-21. The artists were all Cambodians, among them some senior artists who are leaders in the contemporary dance movement in the country.
For one of the dancers, it was the first time that he was dancing in more than a few years, because of a combination of injuries and treatments, and the exigencies of the present pandemic. For the group in general, it was a rare opportunity to work together and to re-discover a sense of community and camaraderie that they had once had, and now have been feeling deprived of, from when they were part of the trail-blazing organization Amrita Performing Arts. Amrita had formerly gathered together Cambodian dance artists for professional activities and performances, in Cambodia and internationally, before the organization stopped its operations in early 2019.
I was also happy to be an agent of animation for the contemporary dance movement here in Cambodia, which has been so robust, yet fragile and still young at around 15 years or so. Speaking now specifically of the group of dance artists associated with Amrita Performing Arts, and not necessarily for the two or three other contemporary dance enterprises of note in the country, unfortunately, I believe that the combination of the cessation of Amrita Performing Arts operations, the pandemic, and an almost complete lack of support by the government for contemporary dance, (with no public studio facility with a floor appropriate for new dance) has dissipated a lot of the brilliant spirit and energy that was ramping-up in exciting ways by the contemporary dance artists here. This workshop at the NKK Dance Centre was my initial gesture of sharing and offering something of long-term value to this amazing community of artists, culminating later this year, in the manifestation of a large dance studio with a suspended wooden floor with contemporary dance specifically in mind, that I will offer for research and creation residencies, rehearsals, and hopefully as a national and global hub of creativity and sharing in a peaceful setting.
The artists and I began our workshop with a great sense of camaraderie and mutual appreciation. We researched and created in the NKK residence building, anticipating the time when the studio would be completed. Making the best out of the present lack of a dance studio, we focussed on site-specific performance, and prepared our work for the outdoors. So, in the golden light of late afternoon, we headed out to the fields for inspiration, performing the works that had been created by the dance artists under my guidance, and to make videos of the performances. The collective excitement from being in this pastoral setting was palpable, and making art was a joy.
For me, out in the rural countryside, reliably, the state of the fields illuminated life and spoke with (literal) naturalness of so many fundamental aspects of living. I found myself thinking about the present heightened awareness of paradigmatic changes taking place on so many fronts and from multiple dimensions, in the cosmos, in the world, and within my inner life. The headline photograph is of me in newly harvested rice fields, so fragrant with the smell off freshly cut grass, after watching them for months as the rice peeped up as bright green shoots from flooded fields, and then gradually grew into lush emerald carpets, then turning a ripening golden hue before harvest. Before that, I had been watching the fields fallow and dusty during dry season. I have had to be here in Siem Reap now, for just over a year, with the benefit of having had the opportunity to observe closely, the constantly cycling state of the fields, and the rotation of crops, the tilling under of some crops no longer productive in a sustainable way, now to become compost or food for pigs, or simply taken away and disposed of. The traditional cultivation of crops and farming is, of course, a source of tried-and-true metaphors for life and living itself, as old as, I imagine, 10,000 years, when agricultural communities first began to arise. Now, I am a first hand witness to this system of human cooperation with elemental cycles as a means to live and as a manner of living, with the result that sometimes, I believe that I am privileged to understand life not by the mediation of a metaphor, but instead, through direct experience and immediate meaning which comes from living in this traditional community.
So, here now are some pictures of the fields in various states, and a sneak-peek of the video performances by the Cambodian artists, which will be premiered in the Spring, as a part of a larger online dance event by artists around the world, created and presented by Tribal Crackling Wind.
Wishing you love, peace and all that’s good.
Birds at dusk fly from sacred banyan tree amongst flooded fields
A cow's delight to graze on left-over grass after harvest
Apumi the dog amongst the stubble of newly cut grass with NKK residence in the background
Beds ready for new plants
Chair, freshly cut grass and Chanborey Soy
Posing in the recently harvested rice paddies
Dry season permits easy access across the fields
Emerald fields at sunset
Fields soon to be re-tilled for next rotation of vegetable crop
TCW workshop at NKK Dance Centre January 2021
Rice begins to grow
Fields still flooded seen through view under construction
Flooded fields at sunset create short-lived islands
Furrows from fresh cut hay next to rice paddies
Good neighbours harvest cauliflower at the golden hour
Workshop participants Leavchanlyka Ka Kou, Noun Sovithou, Soy Chanborey, Chumvan Sodachivy Belle, Hul Rasy
In the field with NKK residence in background
Oasis surrounded by dry and dusty fields
NKK residence beside Chinese kale crop
Young rice plants make the fields electric green
Still flooded rice paddies host fish and frogs
Residence raising and rice paddies
Our good neighbours with their crop of morning glory
Sunset reflected in the flooded fields
The cow herder's short cut through the dry fields
Green rice paddies seen through open window and tuberose bouquet
Workshop cluster under the mango tree in the field