Akiko Kitamura, a Japanese choreographer and dancer, brought her second international collaborative project on contemporary dance, named “Cross Transit”, to the Department of Performing Arts last week.
The event, organised by Amrita Performing Arts, is a collaboration between Cambodian and Japanese artists featuring Kim Hak and Chy Ratana.
This production premiered in Tokyo in March 2016, followed by Tokyo and Matsumoto in September and October the same year.
A satellite project for Cross Transit was also conducted on Sado Island in Niigata and at the Roppongi Art Night festival in Tokyo in August and September this year.
Ms Kitamura said she heard about Amrita from many people and was finally introduced by the Singaporean producer Kim Seng and Asian Arts Council as she looked for a dance company based in Phnom Penh.
This new artwork was inspired when she saw the now-demolished White Building in Phnom Penh and by photographer Kim Hak, who was recommended by a visual artist Kanitha Tith.
“The White Building was a memorable and famous building, and I thought it was really beautiful,” she said. “Then I asked Kim Hak to take shots of me inside the building.
“Secondly, I didn’t know the Kep province region but Mr Hak showed me many villas in old villages. He then told me a powerful story in the Kep region where he met Keo Mom, a 94-year-old lady,” said Ms Kitamura.
“That old lady told us about beautiful villas that she lived in.
“Then Kim Hak shot photos in those Kep villas. Many of his photos focused on Keo Mom’s villa. Her story inspired me very much.
“One moment she was lying down on a bed as if she was dead, but Mr Hak said she let him shoot her between life and death. It was like a melancholic moment and a ghost story.”
Through her research, she knew that some memories and histories were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime. The generation of Mr Hak’s family was killed too, and this was a big motivation to make this project.
Ms Kitamura said the Cambodian younger generation of artists was highly motivated in their attitudes and ways of thinking to create something new.
They had energetic vibes, and keen perspectives on the past and the present.
“I heard that contemporary dance is a bit new for Cambodians, but I think people will try to understand as it has no limitation on understanding,” said Ms Kitamura.
Mr Hak said that in 2010 he was inspired by Ms Mom when he worked on a project in Kep province. In 2011, she passed away, however her inspiration led him to continue his project until he met Ms Kitamura.
“Before the Khmer Rouge regime, Ms Mom had her own villa in Kep province.
“She told me lots of histories of the villas in Kep so I came up with an idea of shooting those old villas. The first photos was of her about to die.
“Then I went to France. She then passed away for sure. When I came back, I did my own project named “Someone” to dedicate to her,” said Mr Hak.
He added that he shot lots of photos of about 30 historical buildings in the city in 2010. However, once he met Ms Mom, he started another project on abandoned villas.
“I thought there was no one lived in those villas since it looks too old and already destroyed, but when I entered I saw a lot of stuff the people used.
“I then thought that someone had lived there, so “Someone” came to be a name of my project.”
Mr Hak said he was really excited that Cambodians could see this art form combining contemporary dance and his photographs.