Cambodia’s Billy Elliot

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Sokvannara Sar leaps during his dance routine as shown in Anne Bass’ documentary, “Dancing Across Borders.” Photo provided by Pacific Northwest Ballet; Credit Photo: Erin Baiano

Remember the uplifting and heartwarming story of Billy Elliot, the young boy from a poor English mining town who discovered a dream of becoming a ballet dancer? Well, meet Sokvannara Sar, Cambodia’s ‘Billy Elliot:’

While visiting Cambodia in 2000, American arts patron Anne H. Bass witnessed a rising star. Then 15 years old, Sokvannara “Sy” Sar performed a dance at Cambodia’s famous Preah Kahn temple and caught Bass’ eye. Nine years later, Sar is a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company, and Bass has documented his journey every step of the way. On May 25, Sar’s story, in a film titled “Dancing Across Borders,” produced and directed by Bass, was showcased at the Seattle International Film Festival.

Sar’s journey began on the streets of Cambodia. “I pretty much just followed my friends,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was really. I just wanted to try [dancing] out.” At the age of 9, Sar began his dance education at the Wat Bo School and eventually found himself performing as a lead at the Preah Kahn temple. Bass happened to catch one of his performances.

After Bass returned home to the United States, she continued to think about Sar’s performance of the fisherman’s dance. “I just kept thinking about … the fact that Cambodian dancers, especially male dancers, don’t have much of a future,” Bass said. “He was just so unbelievably and naturally gifted. He was a totally charismatic performer. The next thing I know, I was writing a letter to him and inviting him to dance ballet.”

And as they say, the rest is history. You can see some great clips from the documentary “Dancing Across Borders” including a nice interview with Sokvannara

(Thinking of visiting the temples of Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to check out my friend Savuth’s tuk tuk services and all the handy information available on Angkortuktuk!)

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~ by Leonard on December 25, 2009.

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