Apsaras Aspiring to a Better Life

As I said in my last post (Aspara Dance), So Channou, a former dancer, has opened a small school to teach Khmer classical dance to young girls facing life challenges. Most of these young girls need to provide for their families or for themselves. So Channou gives them the opportunity to learn dance and music so that they can perform and earn some much-needed money. The program is structured so that the students can continue their regular schooling as they attend the dance and music classes in the morning, go to regular school in the afternoon, and perform in the evening.

I spent time with two of So Channou’s lovely students, Pan Channoand, age 15, and Ki Samnang, age 17. We visited Pan’s home  where she now lives with her sister (Ki’s home was too far away for us to visit.) At Pan’s home, I  learned about the two girls’ family situations as they both tell us about their life experience and their hardship. The need for help and support is evident. All of us also went to the Angkor Wat temple to look at the carved Apsaras that inspired the dance they perform every night. Although they are locals, they do not have much opportunity to see these treasures that tourists come halfway around the world to see.

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Later in the day, I went on to watch Pan and Ki transform themselves into the elegant Apsaras that will delight a small audience of visitors to Siem Reap. Pan and Ki perform every evening with a few other dancers and a small group of musicians at the Khmer BBQ restaurant. So Channou (and her delightful daughter) are there every evening to help them get ready and supervise the performance. The quality of the show was way beyond what I expected given the venue, showcasing the grace and elegance of my two new friends and their fellow performers.

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Being able to be trained and performed has provided these young girls with a way to continue their regular schooling while contributing to the family’s needs. This is not to say that this is a way out of poverty. Dancers earn very little, as little as $50/month for performing every night of the week, not much even for Cambodian standards. Yet, I applaud So Channou for helping young girls to survive using Cambodia classical dance and for helping keep Cambodia classical dance alive.

Enjoy, much more to come on beautiful Cambodia.

France

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5 Responses

  1. France,
    Thanks so much for sharing. As always your images and the narrative live such natural symbiotic relationship. I’m amazed how you stay focused on a topic, when there are, no doubt, so many others to explore. Feel the same about the first installment of the Apsara Dancers, and all your previous blogs. Looking forward to many more.

    1. Sara, As always many thanks for your supportive comment. I don’t know that I am very focused but I know I am very curious. All the best, France

  2. Hi France – I’m Julie Garran’s sister. She says she met you in India (Ladakh?).
    I love your photographs. I was drawn to these by the Apsara dancers, and wish we could have spent this kind of time with them when we were in Siem Reap.
    http://alisonanddon.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/cambodia-part-3-siem-reap-angkor-wat-angkor-tom/
    We did get to see an excellent performance.
    And the next post I went to was the one on Myanmar. It brought back many memories of our time there. and life on the river, and memories of seeing life on the Mekong in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. And again in the Amazon basin. So many similarities.
    http://alisonanddon.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/monkey-business-the-amazing-amazon/
    Cheers,
    Alison

    1. Alison, Thanks for visiting. Indeed I met Julie in Ladakh. I guess you are a family of travelers. Beautiful blog that you and Don have. You seem to be enjoying travel life thoroughly. How wonderful! I’ll keep an eye on your adventures. All the best, France

  3. Damn, France, you are freaking GOOD! I LOVE these photos! Juicy eyes… great perspectives, bokeh is purrfect. You do manage to get yourself into fantastic situations for photography, too!
    We just returned last night from a month in Ethiopia. Truely superb and remote.
    Crossed the Omo River, eastwards. The Chinese have just put a f#cking damn on the river! destroying the flood/retreat farming done for centuries there… All for their private sugar cane Agra-business. Like you said, the Hammar are beautiful people and I think I did “capture” a fragment of their distinctive personality in a few of my photos.
    I do love your work, France. Looking forward to your next post.
    Elise

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