Arts school, Lakhon Khol Youth plan show series

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The rehearsal performance of students at Secondary School of Fine Arts (SSFA) on July 30. SSFA

The Secondary School of Fine Arts (SSFA) and the Lakhon Khol Youth of Cambodia dance troupe have co-organised a large-scale art performance programme called Performing Arts in the Rainy Season. They aim to help Cambodian youth better understand the various forms of ancient Khmer art – and draw the attention of the public to the training they offer – by putting on free shows.

Khon Chansithika, a teacher at the SSFA and head of the dance troupe, said the programme was a cultural event with the purpose of promoting all forms of Khmer art, including ancient and traditional dance, circus, yike, lakhon niyeay (spoken theatre), lakhon bassac and classical music, all part of the curriculum at the school, one of Cambodia’s largest cultural successor training institutions.

He said it was also a way of expressing gratitude to the parents who send their children to study at the school, thus helping to preserve these precious slices of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage.

“On behalf of the SSFA and the Lakhon Khol Youth of Cambodia, I would like to thank all of those who love and support the Cambodian arts in all their forms. Please continue to encourage the performers, who are working hard to preserve, protect and develop Khmer arts,” Chansithika said.

According to a June 17 joint announcement, the event will be held monthly until November, and will feature an hour of multi-stage performances by the youth dance troupe and the SSFA’s five schools (dance, music, circus, visual arts and theater).

“The first performance will be on July 30, and the second on September 17. The third will be October 29, with the final show on November 28. All four performances will be held at the Phimeanakas Theater of the SSFA from 6pm to 7pm,” it said.

The Lakhon Khol Youth of Cambodia was formed in mid-June 2016, and has co-produced many cultural events in order to not just preserve and protect – but also develop – the traditional masked dance drama of Khmer lakhon khol.

The troupe and the SSFA have collaborated many times since 2016, including the first and second Art House events of 2017 and 2018.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, no events were held from 2019 to 2021.

This year’s return will be on a larger scale than anything they have done before.

“The title Performing Arts in the Rainy Season comes from our belief that cultural events should continue to flow, whether in the dry season or the rainy season. We all have many fond memories of Khmer cultural traditions,” said Chansithika.

There were initial problems securing financial support for the production, however.

“We have three ways to find sponsorship. First, through state institutions. We also approach private companies, and third, there are certain philanthropists who use their resources to support the arts,” he said.

“For these shows, we have received support from a small number of philanthropists and from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. No private companies have come forward to support us,” he added.

The performances of 2018 were performed on three stages.

The first featured classical and traditional dance. The second wowed the crowd with several forms of theatre, including lakhon bassac, yike and lakhon niyeay (spoken theatre). The third stage was used for circus performances.

Unfortunately, however, despite widespread publicity and rave reviews for their performances, the school faces a declining number of students from one year to another.

SSFA director Heng Komsan said that in the 2021-22 academic year, the school had 430 staff and a total of 1,037 students.

“We are the only state-run arts school and we run under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Our funding comes from the government, although we do receive contributions from philanthropists, who provide some of our musical instruments as well as various consumables,” he told The Post.

“The SSFA also has 100 impoverished students who reside at the school.”

The school campus is located along Mong Rithy Street in Phnom Penh Thmey commune’s Bayap village of the Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. Students are also taught the national grade 4 to 12 curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

The school aims to train students in all forms of art so that they will use their skills to benefit society.

“I hope that through cooperation between the private sector and public institutions, especially the media, our school will continue to train the next generation in the field of arts and culture,” he said.