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Translating Traditions Through Movement

By Becki Bolsover 3 days ago
Categories Siem Reap

Cambodia is a country that will captivate every sense, expanding your knowledge of the country’s beautiful heritage with every breath you take. Communities are making efforts daily to keep their traditions alive, which were nearly stripped away by the Khmer Rouge. The country has proved their resilience, and through dance they can reflect 1000 year old stories through their bodies movements.

              (Photo credit – Sippican Week)

Arguably the most previous art form, classical Cambodia dance was established more than 1000 years ago to form a bridge between the kings and gods. This connection between the spiritual and natural world was portrayed in a delicate depiction of movement and music. Derived from Indian court dance, Cambodia dance can trace its origins to the apsarases of Hindu mythology who were heavenly nymphs, born to dance for the gods. An influence can also be seen from the traditions of Java & Thailand which intertwines in a dance that requires a command of techniques. Demand for accuracy, flexibility, and control of the body’s movements are demonstrated with fingers curling backwards, arching spine, and toes flexed. There is a precision to each movement that commands precise balance and delicate grace.

             (Photo credit – Go Cambodia)

Accompanied by a pin peat orchestra, the most revered orchestra in Cambodia, classical dance defines the legacy and cultural identity of the Cambodian people. Classical dance or Robam Preah Reach Trop, was originally performed at the royal palaces before being introduced to the public where its popularity turned it into an iconic feature at all events. The dancers in intricate costumes, perform slow and figurative gestures to create dances of tribute, or to reenact epic poems and traditional stories. Robam Chuon Por, the wishing dance and Robam Tep Apsara, the apsara dance, are two of the most widely performed classical dances that anyone with an appreciation for this beautiful expression of heritage can have the pleasure of watching when visiting Cambodia.

             (Photo credit – Marriott Bonvoy)

Coming in two forms, folk dances present a different kind of dance, where costuming and movement aline to tell stories of the various cultural traditions and ethnic groups of Cambodia. Theatrical folk dances interpret the daily life found in the countryside, and ceremonial folk dances were traditionally performed as part of holidays and celebrations. The movements of the dance are not as precise as classical dance and usual a lot more fast paced. A mahori orchestra accompanies the dancers as they reenact stories of love and folktales, in traditional dances such as the trot dance, sneang tosoang dance, robam kngoak pailin or coconut dance.

                   (Photo credit – Canby)

The art form of dance is an important outlet for Cambodia to keep their heritage alive. Being able to watch these dances is a beautiful way for anyone visiting the country to gain an understanding of the country’s history, and be captivated to the point of falling in love with everything Cambodia has to offer.