Cambodian Living Arts believes that arts and cultural expression are essential to a thriving future for Cambodia. This month, we tell the story of Phal Saravuth, leader of Yu Vek Selapak troupe, a group of young artists skilled in dancing, music and theatre.

Phal Saravuth formed the troupe Yu Vek Selapak out of the Khmer Youth Culture Conservation and Protection Association, which he has led since 2010. Since 2016, they have been performing at Cambodian Living Arts’ (CLA) Traditional Dance Show at the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

Saravuth talks about the benefits of performing so regularly. He says, “Compared with last year, my artists have improved both their artistic skills and their incomes a lot. They can support their studies and their living costs. And gradually, the dancers have learned new skills from their peers. For example, now trained classical dancers can perform the folk dances and the folk dancers now can also perform classical dance. Now they can do it.”

He is very committed to the artistic quality of the troupe, as well as ensuring that the dancers are well-trained. He supplies them with glittering and eye-catching costumes, and headdresses based on his research at Cambodia’s ancient temples.

However, his dedication to this part of traditional Khmer dance also presents some challenges. He told us, “The costumes for the dancers really cost me a lot. If we only have a little money, we cannot make those. Sometimes I have to get loans or borrow money from my friends in order to produce the material even though I have my own workshop to do it.”

From his work with CLA, the students whom he trained before now have better career prospects, and, as a leader, Saravuth wants to see his group keep going, and for more and more members to join.

He also hopes that his troupe will continue to perform regularly in partnership with CLA.

With many years of experience in traditional arts, he advises aspiring artists not to give up their dreams, but cautions that it’s important to be professional all the time.

“They should listen and accept comments from the other people to improve how they work and behave if they want to have a successful career in the arts,” he says.

Yu Vek Selapak has a regular show at the CLA Theatre, National Museum of Cambodia, from 7pm. Tickets are available to buy at the National Museum and experience.cambodianlivingarts.org.

To learn more about Cambodian Living Arts, see Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) on Facebook, @CamboLivingArts on Twitter, CambodianLivingArts on Instagram, or visit www.cambodianlivingarts.org.