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Friday, May 3, 2013

60 Years of Cambodian Dance at BAM

by Sharon Lehner

Rama from the dance The Ramayana, Classical Khmer Dancers of Cambodia, 1971.
Courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives.

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia rarely performs in the United States, but appearances are not unprecedented at BAM. In October of 1971, the first extensive US tour of Cambodian classical dance enjoyed its New York premiere here. According to a 1971 BAM press release, “until recently the company performed only in the Royal Palace in Phnom Penn and was the personal property of the Royal Family, their origin going back 1400 years.” In 1971 the company was billed as “The Classical Khmer Ballet of Cambodia,” probably because members of the Royal Family were prohibited by government from joining the tour.

In 1971 The Classical Khmer Ballet of Cambodia opened BAM's ambitious Afro-Asian Festival. So-called “multicultural performance” became more common in the 1980s, but it was unprecedented in the early 1970s.

Check out this line-up:

From a 1971 press release for the Afro-Asian Festival

Here are some excerpts from the Classical Khmer Ballet's 1971 performance:

We decided to dig a little deeper and found that in December 1953 “Mara and her Cambodian Ballet” with Ch’ao-li and Mai-Lan appeared in the Music Hall at BAM. Both Andy Warhol and Jerome Robbins credit Mara and the Cambodian Ballet for inspiration: Robbins for the Broadway blockbuster The King and I; Warhol in some of his earliest New York City Drawings.

This BAM bulletin reads "Mara in a Characteristic Cambodian Attitude." Courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives




  3. Wow its really remarkable to mention a every details of Classical Khmer Ballet of Cambodia opened BAM's ambitious Afro-Asian Festival.


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