Cambodian dance is artistry in motion is and it is distinguished by its elegant and graceful movements, some of which are as intricate and detailed as the movement of the fingers as well as its beautifully elaborate costumes.
The Royal Cambodian Ballet
The Royal Cambodian Ballet was a corps of dancers who were trained from age of six on, and their dancers were an established part of the Cambodian king’s court. The tradition of their royal patronage is one that extends from antiquity into the modern day.
The dances that they engaged ranged from being pure dance pieces that celebrated the movement of the human body, to romances that spoke of star-crossed lovers, to myths and regional legends.
The type of dance that is performed by the Royal Cambodian Ballet can be distinguished by its precise movements, some of which are fluid and graceful and some of which are deliberately jerky or abrupt, demonstrating anger or agitation.
Outside of the royal court, there were also temple dancers, who represented the gods on earth. They were known as entertainers of the gods and they performed during celebrations. Dancers could be both men and women, and they were accompanied by a variety of musical instruments. Some dances that might have been performed include theApsara Dance, which was about the Apsara Yaovamalya and her servants as they picked flowers. The Robam Makar is a dance where a group of angels dance in line using fans, while the Robam Sovann Maccha features a golden mermaid.
Cambodian Folk Dancing
Cambodian dance also has a rich folk tradition. These dances were performed for an audience and they were typically very fast paced, as opposed to the court dances, which could be quite slow and stately. The movements of Cambodian folk dance are less stylized than those found in the court dance and are performed for local festivals. Typically, stringed and plucked instruments as well as a flute accompany folk dance. Cambodian folk dance can be ceremonial; these ceremonial dances are not performed in public and they tend to be reserved for occasions including rituals, celebrations and holidays.
There is a wide variety of Cambodian folk dances that may be seen. The most famous Cambodian folk dance is the Trot dance, which features a hunter who is chasing a deer. The dance is performed during the Chinese New Year, and it is meant to chase away bad luck. Another famous dance is the Sneak Toseay Dance, which features animal characters, like the tiger, the peacock, and the dear. The Pailin Peacock Dance describes the movement and beauty of the Peacock and is very much influenced by Burmese dance.
There are also Cambodian folk dances that hope for a good harvest or for good fishing, hearkening back to a time when Cambodia was almost exclusively agricultural and reflecting the world as it was.
Robam Trot (Trot Dance)
So in short…
Cambodian dance is a beautiful celebration of movement and storytelling; it is very much a part of Cambodian culture and life, whether it is being performed for a festival or for religious purposes and it remains an important art form to this day.
National Ballet Performing Ancient Apsara Dance
at Royal Palace Pagoda, Phnom Penh
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Traditional Dancer and Costumes, Khmer Arts Dance
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