Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) believes that arts and cultural expression are essential to a thriving future for Cambodia. This month, we tell the story of Chey Chankethya, former CLA Living Arts Fellow and a contemporary dancer.

Chey Chankethya is a contemporary dancer, trained in classical dance. She is also a choreographer, and artistic director for Amrita Performing Arts as well as a teacher of classical dance at the School of Fine Arts.

In 2013, she was a CLA Living Arts Fellow, and took part in culture and art activities around Cambodia and elsewhere, which have influenced her current work and practices.

Kethya believes that contemporary dance should be accessible to everyone. She finds that she can express herself through dance, and wants others to join and improve their physical and mental health while expressing their creativity.

However, introducing the public to contemporary dance has had its challenges. Kethya believes that Cambodia’s rich repertoire of traditional dance means that people can sometimes be reluctant to accept new styles and forms of expression.

Another challenge in creating new performances is finding funding. Kethya believes that audiences are often drawn to a show in order to see beautiful costumes and elaborate staging, and are less interested in new experiences, or the message portrayed by a dance on stage.

She organises post-show discussions and workshops to help people understand the meanings of her work more deeply, and to appreciate performances for their creativity and artistic merit.

She has won a number of awards and accolades for her dancing and choreography, including the Mo Ostin Performing Arts Award in 2013. However, she encourages others with a passion to work in the arts not to do it for money or prestige.

Kethya believes that to succeed, a person needs to be curious, and to ask questions. They should learn about arts and culture from the past and the present, bring in their own ideas, and be open to learning from others and collaborating with their contemporaries.

Kethya began to work as artistic director of Amrita Performing Arts in 2014, and began to try to raise awareness of the role that arts can have in social development. In her creations, she tries to raise questions and discussions – she believes that, “a society is fully developed when the people become curious”.

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