Mahagitesvara, dancer of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Photo: Nobuyuki Arai.
VAJRAMALA: SPIRIT OF KHMER DANCE
Experience the power of Khmer classical dance, a moving meditation developed more than 1,000 years ago. Join Cambodia’s first gay dance company as we give new life to our rich heritage, and elevate the quality of life and expression for the country’s LGBTQ people.
“One of the most revolutionary dance troupes in Cambodia . . . A dance troupe like no other.”
Channel NewsAsia, Singapore
“Radical Beauty . . . Brave but also intimate and tender.”
The Bangkok Post, Thailand
"Evocative . . . High art."
Sitamani, dancer of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Photo: Nobuyuki Arai.
Known for its serpentine curves and intricate hand gestures, robam kbach boran or Khmer classical dance was first mentioned in inscriptions from the sixth century of the common era. Its aesthetic and formal qualities can be recognized as early as the ninth century, attested by the vivid iconography of Angkor’s sumptuous temples. Having deep roots in animism and ancestor worship, and married to Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, the art form has served as a vehicle for prayer and entertainment for centuries.
The ancient heritage was nearly annihilated during the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s, in which nine out of ten Khmer dancers died from disease, overwork, starvation, and execution. Late dance masters such as Chea Samy, Soth Sam On, and Chheng Phon spearheaded the tradition's revival from the ashes of war and genocide, and the art form can be seen today throughout Cambodia and its diaspora. A gesture of protest against a legacy of violence and loss, robam kbach boran is a symbol of the strength, grace, hope and resilience of Khmers all over the world, a people who have claimed descent from an apsara, or celestial dancer, named Mera since the days of old.
Udayasmita, dancer of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Photo: Nobuyuki Arai.
Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA is Cambodia’s first gay dance company. We restage Khmer classical dances with a vital freshness and create original, groundbreaking works at the intersection of art and human dignity. As we infuse our tradition with a contemporary spirit, we elevate the quality of life and expression for LGBTQ people in Cambodia and beyond.
Since being founded three years ago, we have worked to provide our artists with the skills and resources to live with pride, dignity, and independence. We have become one of Cambodia’s most celebrated dance companies, garnering both popular and critical acclaim. Our message of courage, compassion, service, and equity has been shared at festivals, universities, embassies, corporate functions, and community events throughout Cambodia, Thailand, and India. We have also reached various media outlets including NBC News (United States), SBS (Australia), Khaosod English (Thailand), Channel NewsAsia (Singapore), and The Cambodia Daily. We maintain a partnership with Khmer Arts and with Counterspace Theater, where we are the dance company in residence.
Through cultural preservation, artistic innovation, rigorous education, leadership development, and fearless advocacy, we strive to create lasting, positive transformation that is local in character and global in significance.
“Now, if these dances do indeed serve as a mirror of the heavens,
there are finally gay angels, and they dance beautifully.”
“The men moved in a dance that conjured the flow of rivers
and the tight precision of a plant's minuscule growth. It was both intimate and transcendental.”
Mekong Review, Southeast Asia
Ratnacitta Suryakerti, founder of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Photo: Nobuyuki Arai.
Born to Khmer refugees in the United States, Prumsodun Ok rose from the poverty and violence-stricken inner city of Long Beach to become the new face of Khmer dance. He uses art to heal, illuminate, and empower, reviving the spirit of his people from the enduring forces of conflict. Seen by many as a hero of Khmer culture, the artist, teacher, and writer works to shape a world where everyone can blossom into their fullest selves.
Ok’s interdisciplinary performances contemplate the “avant-garde in antiquity,” and have been presented across three continents. In 2013 he initiated Children of Refugees, a program of talks and performances by artists, activists, and scholars, to raise awareness for the Syrian refugee crisis. His forthcoming book, The Serpent’s Tail, has been lauded by Associate Professor Saori Hagai (Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto) as an “in-depth account of the historical diversity, contemporary dynamism, and future image of [Khmer classical dance] . . . a colorful and vivid interpretation of the value of dance to contemporary Cambodian society and its contributions to humanity.”
Ok is the recipient of grants and fellowships from TED, MAP Fund, and Surdna Foundation, and has been a guest speaker and choreographer at California Institute of the Arts, UCLA, and Santa Monica College. He was also associate artistic director of Khmer Arts, a member of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts’ Board of Directors, and an artist in residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. Ok is the founding artistic director of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA, the Country Director of Khmer Arts, and was named an LGBT+ Creative Leader of Tomorrow for The Dots's and WeTransfer's Championing Diversity. His celebrated TED Talk has been translated into more than fifteen languages and viewed more than 2.5 million times across various platforms.
“Prumsodun Ok transforms a millennium-old dance into refreshing beauty.”
La Jornada, Mexico
Padmaguru, dancer of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Photo: Nobuyuki Arai.
“A mesmerizing show for both locals and foreigners, Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA deliver a performance that truly honors Cambodian dance culture, while also pushing for its expansion and growth.”
Association Anvaya, Cambodia
“We were so privileged to have Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA perform for our group on a recent trip to Phnom Penh. They took us on a magical journey of classical Khmer dancing interspersed with a more modern approach. The beautiful, gifted and graceful young men made us smile, laugh and even cry with the beauty of their performance. At the end they received a rousing standing ovation from our entire group and many said it was one of the most unforgettable highlights of their trip to Cambodia. Prumsodun Ok’s expert leadership has created an inspiring and highly entertaining work of art!”
Brand G Vacations, United States
Suniladeva, dancer of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Photo: Nobuyuki Arai.
Counterspace Theater at Java Creative Café in Tuol Tompung
Near the Russian Market
Puspanetra, dancer of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. Photo: Nobuyuki Arai.
2018 - 2019 DONORS
Patrick Callahan & James Michael Norman
Memory of Walker Pearce
The Larson Legacy
We are grateful to the generous individuals, foundations, and businesses who champion our efforts as donors and sponsors. If you would like to catalyze our work and amplify our impact, please inquire at: