In 1974, on the occasion of a rare classical dance performance in Phnom Penh during the Cambodian Civil War, I wandered into a theatre dressing room and took a few candid photos. The dancers did not notice me. 32 years later, by extraordinary chance, I met one of those dancers in Tokyo, Japan, where she had come to perform. This led to a chain of events whereby other dancers in the pictures were rediscovered one by one when I finally returned to Cambodia.
In 1980, while I was working in Thailand as a volunteer for World Food Programme, I witnessed and photographed the incipient stages of a classical dance revival in the refugee camp of Khao-I-Dang. Meanwhile, on the other side of the sealed border, the surviving dancers of the classical ballet were also struggling to piece together the remnants of their art.
Their stories of hardship, perseverance and survival, and their individual contributions to the renaissance of the dance, which is the spirit of Cambodia, form the core of this project.