Transmission of the Invisible: transmission of an almost-lost tradition to the modern global world

What happens to the culture of a country that is subjected to civil war, genocide, poverty, corruption and foreign industrial domination? One thing is for certain, the people will lack time and energy to express themselves through art forms. Even if they find means to produce artistic expressions, the traditional skills required is gone with those who lost their lives in the war. As 10 percent of dance artists were killed in the Khmer Rouge genocide, a large part of the repertoire disappeared. That is why Peter Chin, musician, performance artist, artistic director, travelled to Cambodia in 2004, to study and research on classical Khmer dance and music before such traditional art further fades into history. Chin wishes to rediscover, salvage, and revive Cambodian dance because Cambodian identity lies within these cultural forms.
Transmission of the Invisible, a challenging project put together by two Cambodian and three Canadian artists, demonstrates a traditional dance form to a backdrop of images highlighting the aftermath of the civil war. The title is inspired by Chin’s learning experience in Cambodia, when other students called out, “We never used to do it like that!” or “Not that fast!” in the spirit of an ancestral teacher. Chin comments in an interview with NOW Magazine that “[t]here really is a transmission of the invisible through other realms of time and space.” Rooted in Cambodian culture is the concept of ancestral worship and respect and Buddhist ideologies, which is seen on the projected screens and heard in the music.
Chin feels that the current Cambodian dance expressions are a mix traditional and contemporary and he is in contact with both. Transmission of the Invisible bridges these two styles, “glocalizing” if you will, by reviving the essence of Khmer dance in the local Cambodian communities and showcasing Cambodian culture to the global world. Hans Belting claims that performance arts in theatre serve the purpose of remembrance as it is removed from its local setting. At times it is seen as inauthentic, but I believe in the case of the Khmer dance, sharing with the world will strengthen the continuation of the Cambodian culture.
Discover why Peter Chin is described as a “renaissance man” and “a genuine international and global character” by visiting Tribal Crackling Wind Dance Company.
Athena Wong