‘Dancing Across Borders‘ is a documentary featuring Sokvannara (Sy) Sar, a beautiful Cambodian dancer who caught the eye of Anne Bass, a huge supporter of ballet in New York City. The documentary follows teenaged Sy as he transforms from a traditional Cambodian dancer into a Western ballet dancer in only a year. Incredible journey aside, this story had additional significance because it documents Sy as the first ever professional Cambodian (Western) ballet dancer. It’s a fantastic story, and I’m glad I saw it.
I couldn’t help thinking that underneath the nice, surface story of Sy’s unusual development as a dancer laid a deep sadness– by following this path, Sy is taken away from his family and everything he knows. On top of the grueling life of training as a dancer– the difficult private ballet lessons with Olga Kostrizsky, the beloved famous teacher of Baryshnikov and other ballet greats– it must have been a struggle to live in America while not knowing English. Interestingly, Sy doesn’t seem to express a great love for dance during the documentary, but has an air of someone who was given a great opportunity to make something of himself abroad, and he was simply doing what he needed to do to survive.
The movie ends triumphantly as Sy makes his way as a professional dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet, but the post-script rumor is that he’s moved on and not doing ballet anymore. I hope his next step is inspired by what he wants to do, and is not determined by his peers, his sponsors or mentors.
The film’s running time is 88 minutes; it is not rated. Primarily in English; partly in Khmer with English subtitles. It opens at Landmark Theatres Engagements on Friday, April 30, 2010, including Landmark Theatres in San Francisco and Berkeley, as well as other cities and dates nationwide.