Global Community Engagement presents Prumsodun Ok in "A Deepest Blue"

Prum Ok

Prumsodun Ok in front of the famed (and now demolished) "White Building" in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Photo Credit: Lim Sokchanlina

Prumsodun Ok, dancer/choreographer, scholar of arts and of Buddhism, and LGBTQ+ rights activist in a performance of A Deepest Blue

Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m.
Laurie Theater in Spingold

Prumsodun (Prum) Ok is founder and artistic director of Cambodia’s first and only all-male gay classical dance company, Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA. A Deepest Blue, in which Prum will be accompanied by musicians Ota Yutaka, Venerable Nuiya Toshiya, Kunimoto Yoshie, and Otonashi Fumiya, all from Japan, explores humanity's multifaceted relationship with water, focusing on origin stories from both Cambodia and Japan.

Cambodian (or Khmer) classical dance has a centuries-old history, intertwined with that of spirituality and royalty. In the late 1900s, practitioners of this ancient art, and the art itself, were subjected to mass violence, displacement, and loss. Over recent decades, the rebuilding of the repertoire following war and genocide has taken place alongside wonderful innovation. In whatever time period and political context it is practiced, however, Khmer classical dance still often represents the heavens. Prum has subverted the tradition in two ways: by placing gay love at the center of a representation of heaven, and by creating a dance ensemble in which all roles are performed by men, as classical dance in Cambodia has been an almost-exclusively female art for more than a hundred years. A gorgeous performer who studied with some of Cambodia’s most-accomplished classical dancers, Prum is also a brilliantly inventive choreographer. A Deepest Blue is his newest work.

Prum and the musicians will be in residence – rehearsing and visiting classes – from Friday, April 12 through Thursday, April 18.

For inquiries, contact Toni Shapiro-Phim.


Artists bios

Prumsodun Ok teaching Khmer classical dance, Phnom Penh

Prumsodun Ok teaching Khmer classical dance, Phnom Penh

Photo Credit: Nobuyuki Arai

Prumsodun Ok is the proud child of Khmer refugees. Born in, of, and between many cultures, languages, and worldviews, he is an outlier pioneering strategy and program design for art and education. An award-winning choreographer and performer, he has studied the technique and history of Khmer (Cambodian) classical dance for decades, and is now a beloved teacher of this art as well.

He is an innovator who draws from interconnected understandings of humanity, nature, history, language, folklore, and science to interpret patterns, fulfill needs, and identify opportunities for his global community, and shares the story of his tradition while advocating for new narratives as a speaker at, for example, TED events and a Dance/USA conference, in academic publications throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States, and on major media outlets such as BBC, PBS, AFP, Asahi Shimbun, and South China Morning Post, among others.

Having been raised in inner city Long Beach, California, in the aftermath of the Los Angeles race riots, and having lived and worked in Cambodia in the Global South, Ok is committed to breaking cycles of fear, poverty, suffering, violence, and voicelessness. He is especially invested in art and education for social change, the thriving of refugee, diasporic, BIPOC, and underserved youths and families, access to and stewardship of nature, and the transformation of systems and cultures to create equity, harmony, peace, progress, and prosperity. 


Ota Yutaka

Ota Yutaka, photo courtesy of artist

OTA Yutaka is an award-winning musician, composer, dancer, and teacher. He was a member of Shibusashirazu, performing with the Butoh jazz band at Fuji Rock Festival and across Japan and Europe. Ota turned to gagaku in 1995, apprenticing in the ryuteki (dragon flute) under the direction of Shogo Anzai of the Imperial Household Music Department. He continued his studies with Shibasuke Yasushi at Tokyo University of the Arts, from which he graduated in 2002. Ota is regularly consulted for stage, TV, and commercial music projects, such as NHK’s Yoshitsune and TBS’s Mystery of 1200 Year Toshodaiji, and has collaborated with theater company Utervision in projects such as City With Monument. He is the lead musician with A Deepest Blue.


Venerable Nuiya Toshiya, photo courtesy of artist

Venerable Nuiya Toshiya, photo courtesy of artist

Venerable NUIYA Toshiya apprenticed under his father-in-law Venerable Marutsuka Kaigen of Shokakuin Temple in Fukuoka, learning Buddhist chanting and drumming from the head priest. He is currently completing his training at Ekoin Temple, where he performs morning shomyo devotional chants, goma fire rituals, calligraphy, and other esoteric Buddhist services under the direction of Venerable Kondo Inge. A destination for Japanese and international pilgrims alike, Ekoin is a Shingon Buddhist temple almost 1,200 years old, situated in the Koyasan sacred monastery complex founded by Kobo Daishii Kukai in 816 CE.


Kunimoto Yoshie, photo courtesy of artist

Kunimoto Yoshie, photo courtesy of artist

KUNIMOTO Yoshie graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts, and was taught hichiriki by Susumu Miura, Kenji Takakuwa, and Hideki Togi. She has participated in recordings of the Super Kabuki project New Edition Oguri and Monster Hunter Rise video game music. Additionally, she has toured on the Tim Hecker World Tour. Kunimoto teaches a wide range of hichiriki classes and strives to popularize gagaku. She is a member of the group Reigakusha.


Otanashi Fumiya

Otanashi Fumiya

Photo Credit: Ijt

OTONASHI Fumiya is a shō player of gagaku court music. He first encountered gagaku when studying computer music at university, and later picked up the shō. While performing classical gagaku, he has explored and presented various ways of playing the shō and gagaku. He has participated in many music projects both in Japan and abroad, including world tours with Tim Hecker + The Konoyo Ensemble, sessions with Shuta Hasunuma Philharmonic Orchestra, Hideki Togi, yama, noise jazz rock bands and DJs. He was also involved in NHK’s night TV drama series “Iine! Hikaru Genji-kun” and “Kirei no Kuni,” and other music projects for space and video. He is the co-chairperson of Kabuchoka Fuyugekkyo Gagakudan, which plays with miyabi. He is also the director of Kyutoryu gagaku.


Co-sponsored by the Theater Department and the Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) minor, the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, Creative Capital, New England Foundation for the Arts - National Dance Project, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, MAP Fund, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

logoThe presentation of A Deepest Blue was made possible by the New
England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Foundation and the Mellon Foundation.