Jorani was determined to study dance and her parents longed for a better life for their daughter. After lengthy inquiry, they found a dance school in Siem Reap where she could board, continue in school, and pursue her dream of becoming a dancer.
This seemed a truly formidable obstacle. Jorani wept and wept and wept. In desperation, her parents contacted the school again. Couldn’t they, just this once, make an exception? If they didn’t, the parents feared for the child’s health. Finally the wonderful news came – Jorani would be accepted. Now, she is the youngest student ever in the dance program.
Her day begins at dawn. She and the other students work with fine teachers and the Artistic Director is a very famous Khmer dancer, Kim Boran, a former student and dancer of the Royal Palace for sixteen years.
Four hours later, her muscles sore and her brain swimming with dance steps and gestures, she is finished her artistic lessons for the day.
A note on the school: It’s designed for children who wish to study a variety of art forms: classical dance, folk dance, pin peat music and mask making. The school’s goal is to support the traditional arts in Cambodia and ensure that their students become the artists of tomorrow. It is supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia; the Italian Association for Aid to Children (CIAI – Centro Italiano Aiuti all’Infanzia); and private donations.
Then, Jorani goes to regular school (one of the stipulations for being in the program is that all of the students continue with their academic education as well).
The students study for four years (ages 10-13) before, hopefully moving on to one of the professional dance schools, Jorani’s next goal. Ultimately, they have the opportunity to join a professional dance company – a far cry from working in the rice paddy's. And, it was clear during a performance that some of the students would, in fact carry on to professional careers as they demonstrated not only technical skill but the presence required to connect emotionally with an audience.
The photos in full costume to the left and below are of a professional dance company in Siem Reap.
* Jorani's name has been changed to protect her.
Photos and video: R. Marion