Sunday, January 20, 2008

a bit of the arts in cambodia

last night we had the pleasure of going to a shadow puppets performance. which is a tradition in cambodia. there was a story .. about a man who falls in love with a woman and chases after her. there is a battle (or two?), flying monkeys, and a couple of people who fall. all told with cambodian music, big puppets (maybe 3 feet tall and 2 feet across or so?), lights on both sides of a screen, a bit of dialog (in khmer), and traditional dance. wonderful!!

i haven't been to a real dance performance in a long time. a very long time. there have been a few 'amateur dance' things that i've seen, but last night something in my soul went "aahhh." something forgotten and ignored given room to breathe. makes me want to dance more (which is a good thing, as long as i don't ignore it again).

so the dance and shadow puppets ..
- the dancing is all very controlled
- slow and precise
- practiced since they were 8 or 9 (and i'd guess that most of the dancers were in their 20s and 30s)
- flexed feet and hands (so it looks like they curve backwards)
- exact movements with each finger and elbow going the right direction
- women with smaller motions, feet close together (although turned out), and most things close to their core
- men with larger motions, wide stance, loud feet periodically, climbing on each others' shoulders once or twice
- shadow puppets with the light behind the scrim (so they were silhouettes) getting bigger and smaller, sometimes being large enough that the whole screen became almost black
- the uniqeness and intricacy of the puppets -- they are made of leather, with beautiful coloring that was visible even on stage, let alone after the performance with the lights on full blast. almost like a relief print

what a gift .. arts in another culture. and people to enjoy them with. thanks, God, for color and beauty and dance and bodies that can express ideas and truth and relationship. and understanding even though the words were incomprehensible!

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