Please allow me to introduce you to the Artistic Director and Choreographer of the Sacred Centre Dance Company based in Victoria, B.C., Canada, Nath Keo. Nath is a belly dancer who has performed in 7 tours in 51 cities and over 1,000 performances in the past 8 years. Along with releasing two music albums, a book and two dance instructional dance DVDs, his resume includes serving as a featured instructor and performer at the International Bellydance Conference of Canada, alongside the legendary Farida Fahmy of Eygpt, and as a judge at the World Bellydance Championships hosted in Soeul, South Korea.
“I was born in a refugee camp on the border of Cambodia and Thailand and now, a citizen of Canada. In recent years, my work as a dance instructor and performer has now made me a citizen of the world, both in studies and interest. For a dancer, I started rather late, and originally sought out classes out of personal interest and excitement and had no idea this is what I would be doing today. I frequently travel back to Cambodia, though not having grown up there, still consider it my homeland. In 2006, I took a one year hiatus from dancing and performing and served as a Buddhist monk in Cambodia, where I was ordained. At the beginning of this year, I opened a dance studio offering weekly classes in various mediums and specialize in the “Sacred Centre Method,” a form that I’ve developed incorporating all my influences and training in Middle Eastern Dance and Cambodian arts. I’m always happy to meet and network with other Cambodian artists and always open to collaboration.” – Nath Keo
Are you 100% Cambodian? If not, what else?
Nath: I am 75% Cambodian as my mother is half Chinese. So when i visit family on my father’s side, I am noticeably lighter skinned.
Where were you born and where do you reside?
Nath: To be exact, I was born in Kav Lan refugee camp on the Thai border of Cambodia, and currently live in the beautiful and quaint city of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
What inspires you?
Nath: Three main sources. For determination and drive, my parents and their survival, have continually inspired me to stay disciplined and work towards achieving greater goals. For artistic work, I look to people, their life stories and circumstance. Everyone I meet has a unique story and take on life as they see it. For choreography and staging a show, I am driven by music and spirituality.
When did you know you wanted to be a belly dancer?
Nath: I believe that anyone with an opportunity to create a body of work and can embrace their imagination is an artist. The only difference is intent. That allows one to follow that path and share that inspiration to others. Although I was always interested in music and dance from a young age and frequently performed for guests at home, we didn’t have the means to enroll me in an arts program until I was in my later teens. At 21 years of age, I felt I had the artistic freedom to exercise that imagination, and compose enough work to accept the label of being an artist.
What was your first accomplishment in art?
Nath: I would have to say that having produced my first stage show in 2005 was my first level of accomplishment. Looking back now, it would have seemed like a pathetic attempt. However, along the way there’s been many “small victories.”
What is the thought process that you go through before or while choreographing a dance performance?
Nath: There are two methods that I employ. The first comes from the music itself. I will come across a song or series of songs that compel me to move, and I feel the excitement leaves me with no choice but to work with it. The other method comes from having an idea or “story” to tell, or a theme for a show, and then I research songs that can help create that mood.
What do you want your audience to take away from your performance?
Nath: As a performance artist, the main goal is to entertain. That for the duration of the performance, an audience can be taken away to a different place and experience a life outside their own, meanwhile introducing more people to the magic and beauty of the cultures in which the music and dance itself originates from.
What is your favorite Khmer dish?
Nath: I’m a HUGE fan of food, and most specifically Khmer Cuisine! In the end, I will not be remembered as that dancer who likes to eat…but rather the guy that lived to enjoy food, and can dance! I cook khmer food at home on my own as well. My favourite khmer dish would have to be tie between “Amok” and the “Banh Chiao” with ground pork, fresh herbs, and leafy vegetables.
Where or how can people watch your performance?
Nath: I do tour and perform out of town often. My recent travels have taken me to perform all over South East Asia as well, and currently working on booking some dates in the US and Europe. Also, in the meantime, simply do a Youtube search for “Nath Keo.”
Are there possibly any upcoming or future dance shows coming to a stage near our readers?
Nath: The possibility is always there. For this coming Memorial day weekend, I am scheduled to perform and teach worshops in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by Black Orchid Danse. We’re still in the planning stages for that, however more information will be made available shortly on http://www.blackorchiddanse.com/ . Also, I have a monthly newsletter that currently has over 3000 subscribers. I’d like to invite any of our readers to subscribe to my newsletter to receive monthly email updates on future show dates, etc. Visit my studio website at http://www.sacredcentredance.com/ and subscribe to the mailing list. Also, I love making connections and answering any questions about my work, and welcome all feedback, find me on Facebook even!
You’ve been to srok Khmer and served as a monk. What was that experience like?
Nath: The most difficult and rewarding time in my life thus far. The experience taught me a new concept of self discipline and also offered me a chance to learn more about our own culture that I would have otherwise not have to access to, living abroad. I’ve also noticed a difference in how I approach my artistic work as well since that time.
What advice would you give to others who want to pursue fine arts?
Nath: I don’t feel like I am in a position to give advice as everyone’s experience will be uniquely their own, however I can offer some insights from my own experiences.
- Recognize that natural ability and talent is only half the equation, hard work and determination is the other half.
- Measure your level of success by how happy you are with your work and final product, however be open to feedback from your audience.
- Be flexible and do not limit yourself to one market or one medium.
- Continue to train and advance in the field you are pursuing.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help and guidance.
For more about Nath Keo:
Originally Posted by Vanny K.
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