Prumsodun Ok in front of Phnom Penh's now demolished White Building. Photo: Lim Sokchanlina
Born to Khmer refugees in the United States, I rose from the poverty and violence-stricken inner city of Long Beach to become the new face of Khmer dance. I use art to heal, illuminate, and empower, reviving the spirit of my people from the enduring forces of conflict. Seen by many as a champion of Khmer culture, I work as an artist, teacher, and writer to shape a world where everyone can blossom into their fullest selves.
My interdisciplinary performances contemplate the “avant-garde in antiquity,” and have been presented at the Department of Performing Arts (Cambodia), Bangkok Theater Festival – Asia Focus (Thailand), Za-Koenji (Japan), Godrej Leadership Forum (India), Teatro Benito Juarez (Mexico), bhive (Greece), REDCAT (United States), Currents Festival (Cambodia), and Camping Asia (Taiwan). They have been celebrated as “a vision of elegance and grace” (The Phnom Penh Post) and “Radical Beauty” (The Bangkok Post).
My 2013 book Moni Mekhala and Ream Eyso retells the sacred drama of the same name, using an ages-old tale to explore the circumstances of today’s women and the passage of knowledge and leadership within a tradition nearly destroyed by genocide. It was favorably reviewed in the Asian Theatre Journal as “a sampeah kru ritual of a sort: an offering to teachers living and deceased and to Moni Mekhala [the Goddess of the Ocean] herself.” In that same year, I brought together diverse artists, scholars, and activists from across the United States for Children of Refugees, a platform of talks and performances which raised awareness for the Syrian refugee crisis.
In June 2018, I published The Serpent’s Tail as a digital inscription on the world wide web, free and accessible to the public. It is the first critical history of Khmer classical dance written by a practitioner, and 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.”
I am the recipient of grants and fellowships from TED, MAP Fund, Surdna Foundation, and Dance/USA, and have been a guest speaker, choreographer, and instructor at California Institute of the Arts, UCLA, Santa Monica College, Brandeis University, Rajabhat University (Thailand), Kyoto University (Japan) and Ritsumeikan University (Japan) among others. I 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. I am the founding artistic director of Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA, Cambodia’s first gay dance company, which Channel NewsAsia (Singapore) describes as “one of the most revolutionary dance troupes in Cambodia . . . a dance troupe like no other.”
I was named an LGBT+ Creative Leader of Tomorrow for The Dots's and WeTransfer’s Championing Diversity. My celebrated TED Talk and keynote speech at the 2019 Dance/USA Annual Conference have received standing ovations, with the former being translated into more than fifteen languages and viewed more than 2.5 million times across various platforms. I currently live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where I pioneer work at the forefront of cultural preservation, artistic innovation, and LGBTQ advocacy.