Coming out to dance

Erin Handley

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Photo: Hannah Hawkins

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She had a dream about an earthquake. That’s how Eng Hai knew she was pregnant. The son who came after that dream, Prumsodun Ok, sits in his Phnom Penh apartment some thirty-one years later. I first met the founder of Natyarasa, Cambodia’s first all-gay dance troupe, a year ago, after climbing the steep stairs to his studio apartment. His wrists wrapped in gold, he poured tumblers of red wine for the cluster of people who had come to see him perform, with a wide smile and the warmth of someone greeting old friends.

Tea candles burned around the white-tiled apartment, the windows closed so no breeze could snuff them out. The space was full of heat and an other-earthly light as 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.

More than a year later, Prum sits with the undeniable elegance of a dancer, wearing a neat navy shirt. He’s swapped wine for water on this late March morning, which is overcast, with an unseasonable smatter of rain, as he recounts his mother’s dream.

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