IN the beginning warring gods and demons churned the cosmic ocean, and celestial dancers called apsaras emerged from the froth. That’s one story about Cambodian dance, its origin myth. This tale is preserved in bas-reliefs on the monumental temples of Angkor, created (like the dance) during the Khmer Empire (802-1431), left to become ruins during centuries of vassalage and rediscovered in the 19th and 20th centuries as emblems, first of royal pride and then of national identity.

I don't know what I am watching.  But it is exotic and spellbinding.

And it doesn't hurt that the Khmer Rouge tried to murder anyone involved in this ancient dance form, during their short reign of terror.

Tonight, I bring you Cambodian ballet:

BTW, I know absolutely nothing about Cambodian folklore, but I think the monkey is a trickster figure in that dance segment.

What Wiki says:

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia is a form of performing arts established in the royal courts of Cambodia for the purpose of entertainment as well as ceremonial propitiation.[1] It is the dominant genre of dance theatre in Cambodia that features the classical dance style and is analogous to Thai dance theatre of the inner court, the lakhon nai.[2]

It is performed during public occasions and ceremonies in Cambodia as well as among Cambodians in other countries.[unver. 1] Performances entails elaborately dressed dancers performing a slow and figurative set of gestures and poses meant to entrance the viewer. The repertoire includes dances of tribute or invocation and the enactment of traditional stories and epic poems such as the Ramayana. The music is played by an ensemble of xylophones, metallophones, woodwind instruments, drums, and gong chimes accompanied by a chorus.


Plus, more NYT:

“The Legend of Apsara Mera,” which the Royal Ballet of Cambodia is presenting at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (May 2 to 4), combines the Hindu tale of the apsaras rising from a sea of milk with a love story of an apsara and a foreign prince that is Cambodia’s foundation myth.

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.

They have been performing more often in NYC in recent years: and the NYT has been covering them, and mostly liking what they see.

Amazingly, Wiki didn't have page dedicated to this ballet: only a photo of the curtain call.

But I think the dance itself is amazing, and hope you do, too.

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