In this documentary-performance, Phuon saw in Khmer boxing a world of sorrow, perseverance and entrapment on a short-lived and exploited sports career.
Hem Saran is in his last year boxing, and Brodal Serei is part homage to this man’s career and part reflection on the daily life and struggles of freestyle boxing in Cambodia.
Brodal Serei proposes a new look at fighting. Phuon deconstructs movement inspired in boxing and slows it down to a point where the audience can see the smallest details of the practice – zooming in on the action the precise moment when one gets punched, falls downs and struggles to recover languishing support from the floor.
The choreography allows the audience to dive right into the movement itself, set in a parking lot – alternating from a slow motion dance with real-time facial expressions of hatred and determination to a quick set of workouts and witty steps representing the pre and post-performance atmosphere of a real Khmer fight.
Brodal Serei unfolds itself gently offering an opportunity for the audiences to accompany the events, the live music challenges the dancers to train harder and faster, followed by the karaoke scene where a dancer sings his heart out and introduces dancers to the fight.
Sound composition by Zai Tang, brings together a Cambodia atmosphere and context to the performance with facts and stories from the people of the country, leaving everyone curious for more. Sometimes the sound recordings offer a reflection on the action just gone, other times it unfolds parallel to the action cementing a new and exciting rhythm for Brodal Serei.
Phuon tests the audience by feeding small pockets of information on Khmer boxing. The story is told partly by the dance itself, but it’s also written all over the open garage-looking set where failure and hurdles anticipate fighting.
Brodal Serei is bound with symbolism, desire and commitment from the dancers, sharply trained in freestyle boxing and exploring a new movement language that leaves in between dancing and fighting.
Brodal Serei (freestyle boxing) is a da:ns festival commission and residency. Emmanuele Phuon with Amrita Performing Arts. At Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay 22 & 23 of October.