Prumsodun Ok


Photo by Lim Sokchanlina.

Prumsodun Ok was born to Khmer refugees in the United States. As a choreographer, dancer, and writer, he uses art to heal, illuminate, and empower. Seen by many as a hero of Khmer culture, his work revives the spirit of his people from the enduring forces of conflict.

Ok works to shape a culture in which everyone is free to blossom into their fullest selves. Such an intent is expressed via “Drops and Seeds,” which Ok will present alongside NATYARASA, Ana Maria Rodriguez, Fred Pommerehn, and Ensemble KNM at CTM 2020. The piece works with the shift of meanings resulting when traditions are put under stress or recalled. As the first male student of one of the few survivors/carriers of the Khmer style, Ok replaces the traditional female Khmer performer with a queer dance ensemble. The androgynousness of the dancers abstracts and takes the dance out of its usual context, creating space for questions of remembrance and transmission, and considering positions of power in traditional society and cultural forms.

His interdisciplinary performances have been presented internationally. In 2013, he initiated Children of Refugees, a program of talks and performances by artists, activists, and scholars, which aimed to raise awareness for the Syrian refugee crisis. His forthcoming book The Serpent’s Tail has been lauded by Associate Professor Saori Hagai (Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto) as an “in-depth account of the historical diversity, contemporary dynamism, and future image of [Khmer classical dance]…a colorful and vivid interpretation of the value of dance to contemporary Cambodian society and its contributions to humanity.”

Ok is the recipient of grants and fellowships from TED, MAP Fund, and Surdna Foundation, and has been a guest speaker and choreographer at California Institute of the Arts, UCLA, and Santa Monica College. He was also associate artistic director of Khmer Arts, a member of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts’ Board of Directors, and an artist in residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. Ok is the founding artistic director of Cambodia’s first gay dance company Prumsodun Ok & NATYARASA.