Chaya Burt – Bio

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. Her training began shortly after the Khmer Rouge genocide with the foremost surviving dance masters of Cambodia at the Royal University of Fine Arts, serving on the dance faculty there from 1989 to 1992. As a member of Cambodia’s Royal Dance Troupe Charya toured nationally and internationally. After emigrating in 1993, Burt has performed throughout the USA, including LA’s Getty Museum, the Kennedy Center, and the San Francisco Opera House. She has been featured countless times at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. Her original works have been presented by Jacob’s Pillow Festival, World Arts West, CounterPULSE, San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and many others.

She is the founding artistic director of Charya Burt Cambodian Dance, based in the San Francisco North Bay. Among her numerous honors, Burt is an inaugural Dance/USA Fellow, a 2022 Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellow for Artists Transforming Communities, and a recipient of the Isadora Duncan Award for Individual Performance. Center for Cultural Innovation and Creative Work Fund have each granted Burt multiple awards. Her work has been chronicled in KQED Arts, Cambodians Dark Past Behind Her, A Dancer Steps into the Light (2014), and the US Department of State’s A Living Legacy: Classical Cambodian Dance Thrives in California (2010).

Burt has devoted her life to reviving classical Cambodian dance by preserving authentic movements, gestures, and dances of the classical repertory, strengthening a sense of cultural identity for Cambodian Americans. A 5-time Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) master artist awardee, Burt has trained thousands of dance students throughout California, including multiple stints as artist-in-residence at Cambodian cultural centers. In 2021, she received an ACTA Living Cultures grant to create the Charya Burt Cambodian Dance Digital Library.

This past February (2024) in partnership with New Performance Traditions/Paul Dresher Ensemble Burt premiered The Rebirth of Apsara: Artistic Lineage, Cultural Resilience, and the Resurrection of Cambodian Arts from the Ashes of Genocide (2024), her Hewlett 50 Arts commission exploring how traditional Cambodian Arts is ever evolving with four generations of multi-disciplinary Cambodian-American artists. In 2018, Burt premiered her full-length dance/theatre piece, Silenced, at CSU Long Beach, partnering with Khmer Arts Academy to explore how Cambodians are more defined by the Golden Age of the 1960s than the genocide that ended it. This production and her Children of the Refugees (2017) symbolize Burt’s work to help the Cambodian Diaspora heal by reconciling and co-existing with their dark past. Her other major choreographic works include, Of Spirits Intertwined (2018), Heavenly Garden (2016), and Blossoming Antiquities: Rodins Encounter with the Celestial Dancers of Cambodia (2013).