Life in a Buddhist monastery inspires “Samsara,” a new dance work from Cambodian-Canadian choreographer Nath Keo

Bunny Keo, sister of choreographer Nath Keo, and one of the eight dancers who will premiere his new work, "Samsara: A Dance Journey," this Saturday in Victoria, BC

A year spent in a Buddhist monastery formed the inspiration for Samsara: A Dance Journey, an ambitious new work by Cambodian choreographer Nath Keo that will premiere tomorrow at the McPherson Playhouse, in Victoria, BC.

“Keo, who moved to Victoria as a six-year-old refugee in 1986, has always maintained a strong connection with his homeland of Cambodia,” reports the Times Colonist. “He returns annually, and in 2006 decided to take it further by committing a year to monastic studies in a remote area near the Vietnamese border.”

“‘It’s something that has been part of my family lineage,’ he said. ‘In each generation, one of the sons would spend a significant time in a monastery as a Buddhist monk.’”

Samsara, the fifth major work created for Keo’s Sacred Centre Dance, cycles its eight dancers through “six stages of life identified through Buddhist philosophy. The first act moves through birth, love and sickness. The second act concludes with suffering, death and finally, rebirth.”

“Keo said he finished his monastic studies a calmer person,” continues the Times Colonist, “who was able to accomplish work more efficiently and with less physical strain. But the spiritual experience also left him with an important new perspective: ‘It certainly changed the way I move and dance,’ he said. ‘It’s a very odd combination, between monastic life and performance life. They’re very different. One is about letting go of ego and the other is about using your ego and burning it as fuel to put on a performance.’”

To read the whole article and get details about the premiere of Samsara: A Dance Journey, click here.

Photograph by Shari Nakagawa