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Classical Cambodian dancer and choreographer Charya Burt and selected Mosaic Fellows from Mosaic America (formerly Sangam Arts) will create Beautiful Dark, a collaborative dance piece with live original music that explores the social and psychological impact of colorism  (discrimination against individuals with darker skin tones, typically among people of the same ethnic group) including the social phenomenon of skin whitening and the physical, emotional, and cultural implications it has for persons of color.

This work is informed by Burt’s personal experiences growing up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she was derisively labeled srey k’mau (black girl) and how that colored her own perceptions of beauty and self-worth. To develop Beautiful Dark, she will combine her previous research in Cambodia alongside further studies and interviews, conducted in partnership with Mosaic America. Van-Anh Vo will create new music for the piece, Indian poet Shikha Malaviya will contribute text, and Odissi dancer and choreographer  Niharika Mohanty will interweave Charya Burt’s story with others’ accounts of societal colorism.

Charya Burt is an acclaimed master dancer, choreographer, vocalist, and teacher of classical Cambodian dance, who has injected new life into the dance form by creating classically inspired, inventive new works.

Founded in 2013 as Sangam Arts, Mosaic America  provides an innovative platform for artists from diverse backgrounds to come together to collaborate and co-create world-class music and dance performances. In this project, it will connect Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Indian artists.

Photo of Charya Burt performing in Blossoming Antiquities by Liz Hafalia