Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured
The Khmer Arts Ensemble has provided 42 artists (the majority of whom are women) with advanced training in classical dance and music and professional development. The Ensemble’s 29 fulltime members are now performing with unsurpassed quality.
The Ensemble has created six new dances, restaged more than a dozen traditional dances, and presented these works in Cambodia and on major stages around the world, reaching audiences in the tens of thousands.
One measure of success is rates of retention. After its first year, the Ensemble saw an employee turnover of 30 percent, 10 percent after its second and no turnover after its third or fourth years. The reason for the initial high rate and its quick decline is that the Ensemble’s system of year-round rehearsals was too difficult an adjustment for artists who were used to the ad hoc rehearsal system employed by public dance institutions. As the Ensemble replaced departing artists with more eager learners, these new artists came to recognize the benefits of attention to quality and rigorous training.
Other measures of success include critical reviews of the Ensemble’s performances. Since its founding, the Ensemble has received glowing reviews in major newspapers in Cambodia and around the world, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, as well as papers in Europe and Asia.
The Khmer Arts Ensemble takes pride in the fact that it has been able to pay its artists a livable wage with annual increases, currently $200-300 per month. (By comparison, garment factory laborers typically earn $50-60 per month.)
How will your project evolve over the next three years?
Much of the Khmer Arts Ensemble’s first years has been dedicated to developing skills and a repertory of work. Now it must invest in sharing this work with the public. More regular performance and touring seasons will help increase the Ensemble’s earned income (thereby allowing it to invest more in the artists and the artwork) and its capacity to share its work with audiences.
Domestically, the Ensemble is working to establish the Khmer Arts Festival, an annual multi-week presentation of new dances created by collaborating young artists from multiple disciplines in the capital city of Phnom Penh.
The Ensemble is also developing a marketing strategy for international festivals and overseas theaters, so that foreign touring might reach three months per year on a regular basis.