Last October the Angkor Dance Troupe celebrated its 25th anniversary with the premiere performance of “Apsara Dancing Stones” at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. I was in the crowd that night and came away very impressed by the artistry, grace and tradition of Cambodian dance (the blog post I wrote about that night is HERE). With that experience in mind, I was pleased to see in the “arts” section of yesterday’s New York Times a major story about Cambodian dance. The story was written now because several notable dance troupes from Cambodia will be in New York City this month for performances, but the story also provides some history and background of Cambodian dance. Because that art form has a major place in our city, the article is valuable reading for Lowell residents.
Following are several paragraphs from the Times article with the YouTube video described in the article following underneath:
The Royal Ballet embodies Cambodian classical style: spiritual, serene, very much as if those temple bas-reliefs had come to slow life. Knees bend softly in gliding walks. Toes curl up and fingers bow back toward wrists with the elegance of flora in the wind. Costumes are resplendent, brocaded, bejeweled. The dancers seem to wear temples on their heads. Through stylized mime, the dances recount myths.
“The Legend of Apsara Mera” was choreographed by no less than a princess, Norodom Buppha Devi, 70, who was the Royal Ballet’s prima ballerina in the 1960s and lived in exile from 1970 to 1991. As the country’s culture minister from 1999 to 2004 she successfully lobbied to have Unesco place Cambodian classical dance on its register of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Still, the dance “is always evolving,” she said via e-mail in French. “Each generation of teachers transmits its own style and creations.” The Apsara Dance, a set piece that looks timeless, was created, Ms. Buppha Devi said, by her grandmother, Queen Sisowath Kossomak, in 1962. (Other dancers date the piece’s creation to the late 1950s. A 1965 film of it, which can be found on YouTube, stars the stunning princess.)