This is my essay for a blog mentoring project for African Women. Since I'm writing about a Cambodian dance --thought I'd share it here.
My answer to the question is Leng Sopharaht - the young woman in the photograph above.
Leng Sopharath lives in Cambodia which is locoated in Southeast Asia. As you can see on the map, Cambodia is closer to Africa than it is the United States where I live with my husband and two children who we adopted from Cambodia. Our family is also sponsoring her for college study through the Sharing Foundation (you can view more photos from her and our correspondence here and here)
Leng Spoharath is twenty years old and grew up in the same orphanage where my daughter lived for two years. It is located in an area named Kampong Speu outside the capital city of Phnom Penh. She had an opportunity to study classical Cambodian Dance at her orphanage. She loves to dance.
I think that dance has the power to capture our imagination and emotions. As we watch a dance or start to move our bodies, dance movements have the ability to transport us to other times and places. Dance can be enchant us, make us dream, tell stories, and have a spiritual meaning. In Cambodian classical dance, this is so very true. It has been said that Dance is the Spirit of Cambodia!
Classical Cambodian dance movements are very slow. Dancers are trained for many years to learn the different hand gestures, facial expressions, and bows. When I watch a classical Cambodian dancer hands, sometimes I see flowers or sometimes butterflies or birds. Sometimes the dancers - moving across the stage, are telling a myth from ancient times in Cambodia, illustrating a legend, or enacting a spiritual blessing. (If you are on a fast enough connection, you can view this video clip from YouTube)
Classical Cambodian dance traces it roots back to the carvings of asparas (angels in Cambodian) on Cambodian's oldest temple, Angkor Wat. These dances were created more than a 1,000 years ago and have been passed down from mother to daughter for many, many generations.
These traditional dances tell stories and they are populated with princes and princesses, giants, monkeys, peacocks, and other mythical figures. While many works are tell stories or famous legends of love and war and magic, others are considered "pure" dance -- or dancing for the joy of dancing without telling a story.
I found a beautiful slide show of Cambodian Dance here on YouTube. It begins with a poem:
We dance for laughter
We dance for tears
We dance for madness
We dance for fears
We dance for hopes
We dance for screams
We are the dancers
We create the dreams
Dance is an important part of everyone's culture no matter where they are from or what they do. What does dance mean to you? What is special the art of dance in your culture? What dance artists do you love and why?