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The Tenth Dancer
History of the Project
Interview with the Filmmaker :: Sally Ingleton
International Film Festivals
The Dancers
Background Politics
Cultural Background
Sally Ingleton Writes About Making the Film
Movie Clip
Where to Buy
The Tenth Dancer

International Film Festivals
THE TENTH DANCER has screened at the following international film festivals:
Cinema Du Reel, Paris
Creteil International Women's Festival Paris
Los Angeles Asia Pacific Festival
Melbourne Film Festival
Jerusalem Film Festival
Helsinki Film Festival
Margaret Mead Film Festival New York
Chicago Film Festival
Hawaii International Film Festival

Asian TV Festival, Japan
Berkeley Women's Film Festival
San Francisco International Film Festival
Singapore Film Festival

Film Forum Freiburg, Germany

Winner Golden Gate Award, 1994 San Francisco Film Festival
Winner 1994 Best Documentary ATOM AWARDS
Winner Silver Plaque, Chicago Film Festival
Honourable Mention, Asian Television Festival Japan 1994
Nominated Best Documentary, Hawaii Film Festival 1993
Invited to 15 international film festivals including Cinema Du Reel Paris, Creteuil Women's Festival; Freiburg; Hawaii; Chicago; Los Angeles Asia Pacific, Margaret Mead in NY, Melbourne, Singapore etc.

The Dancers
Today the National Dance Company of Cambodia has about 60 members who perform classical and folk dance.
The classical dance is mainly performed by women who play both the male and female roles as well as the masked role of the 'giant'. Men play the masked role of the monkey, seen in the Ramayana story. Both men and women perform equally in the less spectacular folk dance.
The dancers rehearse twice a day, six days a week and are paid a monthly salary by the State of about US$15. They do occasional performances for tourists and foreign dignitaries for which they are paid extra. Several are forced to take outside jobs to earn enough money to survive.
Many of today's members were students or relatives of the Royal Ballet before the Pol Pot Regime.
Em Theay
Em Theay is the Head teacher of the Company in Phnom Penh. At 62 years of age she has twinkling eyes, a wicked laugh and a toothless grin. As one of the few survivors of the Royal Ballet, she has a remarkable memory for all the steps, songs and costume designs of the classical dance.
As a child she grew up in the Palace grounds because her parents were servants for the King and Queen.
Every New Year we would dance for her (the Queen). She would have a party and give us all noodle soup so everyone wanted to dance well. It was as if the spirits lived inside us and guided us to remember.
They selected me to take the Giant's role because I was dark skinned. Dark round and fat. For the female roles they wanted someone who was tall, slim, lightskinned and pretty. I was dark, but the Giant wore a mask, so it was okay.

She had 18 children, though not all survived. 10 died before the Pol Pot period - many as babies, 3 died during Pol Pot and the 5 left are now all artists. Each morning she rises and helps her grandchildren do their dance exercises. She then walks to the theatre to begin rehearsal. On the way she stops and jokes with stallholders who sell her a breakfast of noodle soup.
Once at rehearsal the jokes stop and the task of remembering dance steps begins. She offers prayers to the spirits of the old dance teachers, then with a hand clap, her troupe of dancers begin. Following them from behind she pinches flesh and prods muscles to help form the correct postures. All the time she sings out the narratives in old language long forgotten by those who dance before her now. The words to these songs were recorded in precious notebooks which Em Theay carried with her for the entire Pol Pot period. She hid and protected them at great risk to her own life because she knew their culture must survive. Even so, much was lost.
Now, I regret that I know so much. For example, I can sing and dance but my students have yet to learn all these things. I'm afraid that when I die everything will just go.....they don't understand the real meaning of the dances, they don't yet have the spirit in their bodies. They have no fire inside them to light their spirit... Even Sok Chea knows a lot but still not enough.
Sok Chea
Sok Chea plays the principal male role in Em Theay's troupe. She is in her late thirties and is tall and statuesque. Her face is elegant and composed and at times resembles the mask-like expressions of the dance.
I used to have 2 or 3 teachers but they died in the Pol Pot time. Now there's only Em Theay. Although I survived and am still alive today, I have lost some of my talent. I lost this in the Pol Pot time.Since I met up with Em Theay she has been like a mother to me and has helped me recall and has guided and trained me so that some of my spirit has returned.
Today Sok Chea juggles her role of principal dancer with that of wife and mother to three children. She tries very hard to learn the dances, often performing special ceremonies for Em Theay and the spirits of the old dance teachers who will help her remember.
On the surface Sok Chea's life is normal. But underneath she is followed by shadows of the past. Her memory is plagued by what happened to her during the Pol Pot time when six of her brothers and sisters, her father and all her sister's children died.
We cannot forget it, even when we go to sleep it's still in our minds. The Pol Pot regime lasted over 3 years but it felt like 20 or 30 years.
Many Cambodians fled their country at the end of the Pol Pot time. Sok Chea planned to leave but at the last minute couldn't go. She knew she would never belong elsewhere.
Preparing for the New Year performance - she wishes her children could know what peace was like.
Since I was born, war has started more than 4 times. My mother also knew war. It seems like the war doesn't know how to end. Whenever I talk to my children I never talk about what's going on in other countries or in other times. I only talk about Pol Pot because Pol Pot's men were killers, and very cruel, especially killing their own people.
It wasn't the Chinese killing Cambodians, nor the Vietnamese killing Cambodians and no other nationality was killing Cambodians. It was Cambodians killing Cambodians.

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