Royal Ballet of Cambodia Performs Ancient Legends in Paris

Royal Ballet  of Cambodia - Le Ballet Royal du Cambodge Paris performance.
Royal Ballet of Cambodia – Le Ballet Royal du Cambodge Paris performance.

By Kent Davis – Devata.org

PARIS — At the beginning of time, an extraordinary Hindu legend relates how the forces of good and evil worked together to create Amrita, the nectar of immortality. Today, humankind still seeks this magical elixir and Khmer dancers continue to recreate the tale.

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia will perform in Paris on October 10, 2010 with the support and collaboration of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia. Their performance is directly connected to their country’s thousand-year-old royal tradition of dance through the choreography, which was arranged by Cambodian Princess Buppha Devi.

Royal Ballet of Cambodia dancers in full costume.
Royal Ballet of Cambodia dancers in full costume.

The Princess, a former prima ballerina in this sacred art, is the daughter of former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, and the sister of the present King Sihamoni. At its origin, this dance form was only performed as an offering for gods and royalty. It has only been presented as a performance art in modern times.

“The Legend of the Apsara Mera” presents two Brahmanic tales that became integral to Khmer culture. Act I is the “Churning of the Sea of Milk” (“Le mythe du barattage de la mer de lait”). While the myth originated in India, Khmer interpretation and portrayal are unique, focusing on the naga, or cosmic serpent, and Vishnu at the center of the image balancing the forces of good (devas on the right below) and evil (asuras on the left).

Angkor Wat features the largest artistic representation of the Hindu legend of "the churning of the ocean of milk" on Earth, highlighted in a performance by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.
Angkor Wat features the largest artistic representation of the Hindu legend of “the churning of the ocean of milk” on Earth. Visnu appears at the center with the naga Vasuki wrapped around Mt. Mandara. Vishnu also incarnates as his avatar, the turtle Kurma below, to provide a base.  The demons, or asuras, pull on Visuki to the left as gods, or devas, pull on the right. This churns the ocean to manifest magical objects, including the apsaras that fly over the scene. This iconic image is highlighted in a performance by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.

Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia is home to the largest artistic rendering of the “churning the sea of milk” on Earth; a bas-relief panel 49 yards wide. In considering the legend, the Cambodian dance history book Earth in Flower by Paul Cravath quotes French archaeologist Bernard-Philippe Groslier’s observation that the naga is the “god of the waters” that “haunts the whole of Khmer art, from the endlessly repeated theme of the churning of the Sea of Milk down to the most insignificant architectural element which will accommodate it.”

In addition to the elixir of immortality, the art of Angkor Wat reveals that something else associated with Khmer culture manifested from the ocean: the apsaras or celestial women who fly above the scene. Khmer art routinely features women and goddesses, with temples like Angkor Wat honoring women, even to the exclusion of men. The female dance tradition of Cambodia is closely associated with these ancient beliefs.

Performance by the RoyalBallet.of Cambodia Copyright 2010 Anders Jiras.
Performance by the Royal Ballet. of Cambodia. Copyright 2010 Anders Jiras.

Act II presents “The Legend of Kambu and Mera” (“La légende de Kambu et de Méra”). Quoting historian Thierry Solange, Earth in Flower describes how this legend establishes that “the origin of the kings of Cambodia goes back to the union of the hermit Kambu Svāyambhuva, eponymic ancestor of the Kambujas, with the celestial nymph Merā….” As Cravath explains, Svayambhuva means “self-creating,” and Merā was an apsaras or heavenly dancer given to him by Shiva.

The royal troupe features elaborate costumes, including beautiful new crowns replicating the ancient styles worn by women in the stone portraits at Angkor Wat.

A modern crown created for this special performance of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and a crowned devata seen on the West Gopura of Angkor Wat.  Photo left - Copyright 2010 Anders Jiras. Right - Kent Davis
A modern crown created for this special performance of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and a crowned devata seen on the West Gopura of Angkor Wat. Photo left – Copyright 2010 Anders Jiras. Right – Kent Davis

Royal Ballet of Cambodia Performance Information

Act I: The myth of the Churning of the Sea of Milk

Act II: The Legend of Kambu and Mera

Exécution musicaleNgornly Seang,Pruong Proeung, Kong Chum, Kol Nol, Sok Chhem, Kimsour san

Chant – Borin Yann, Marey Doung, Sarath Hun

DansePhirum Meas, Chamroeumina Chap, Chansoda Chen,Sokhoeum Sok, Pech Heung, Viphearun Yann, Mary Prom, Savin Sam, Sathya Sam, Danida Muong, Borena Chhin, Thida Kao, Samphors Chamroeum, Phirum Keo, Limsothea Sam, Dalis Ou, Lin Seng, Vichivi Praseth, Vichheka Praseth, Chamroeuntola Chap, Chanmoly Vuth, Sovanney Samart, Khankanha Ram, Leakhena Im, Linda Hem, Sophy Yan, Chumnit Penh, Thavrak Seur, Yeng Yang

ChorégraphieS.A.R. Norodom Buppha Devi, Proeung Chieng

Chorégraphie-Costumes Soth Somaly

Interprète Kor Borin

CostumesSim Mantha,Pen Sokhuon,Ros Yaran,

Décor Sek Savuth

Soutien Ministère de la Culture et des Beaux-Arts du Royaume du Cambodge,Ministère de la Culture et des Beaux-Arts du Royaume du Cambodge

PARIS

Sunday, 10/10 2010 16:00
Sunday, 10/10 2010 20:00

PARIS TICKET INFORMATION – FRENCH

PARIS TICKET INFORMATION – ENGLISH

BRUSSELS

BRUSSELS TICKET INFORMATION – FRENCH

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