With a little hype from my friends
Dancing Across Borders, documentary, not rated, in English and Khmer with subtitles, The Screen, 2.5 chiles
IThe “Texas takeover.” That’s how one prominent patron of the arts referred publicly to Anne Bass’ machinations as a member of the board of directors of the School of American Ballet in New York at the time of co-founder George Balanchine’s death in 1983. Bass, the ex-wife of Texas oilman and billionaire Sid Bass, once divided her time between Fort Worth and Manhattan and has been a high-profile socialite and philanthropist for the New York City Ballet and many other organizations for years.
Dancing Across Borders, a documentary directed by Bass, is about an amazing Cambodian dancer she discovered on a trip to Asia and decided to turn into a ballet star. Although the film offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the study of ballet, Bass comes across as a cultural imperialist, and the film as an example of a wealthy woman’s vanity taken to the highest extreme.
A documentary by any other filmmaker might have shown the actual story of young Sokvannara Sar, whom Bass found dancing at a temple on a trip she took to Angkor Wat. Sar, from extremely humble roots, was, of course, inclined to accept the wealthy American’s offer of sponsorship to study ballet in America before he spoke a word of English or even knew what ballet was. It was an opportunity to help support his family, to have a career, to live in the United States. A young man’s dream come true. Or was it?
The fact that Bass’ money bought private lessons with one of the most renowned dance teachers, a place at the prestigious School of American Ballet (while she served on its board), and a high-school degree is not really that surprising. What seems