‘King Jayavarman VII’: Classic ballet, with modern style

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The characters of King Jayavarman VII (right) and his consort. SUPPLIED

A performance of the traditional Khmer dance taken from the story of King Jayavarman VII, based on the masterpieces and achievements of three great heroes, will be performed by 200 artists from Princess Norodom Buppha Devi Dance School and the Unions of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) at Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

The August 27-28 performance – a collaboration between the dance school and the youth federation of Svay Rieng province and is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts – will be broadcast by Bayon TV.

Chhi Kolbotra, the head of the UYFC team organising the performance, said the leader of the dance school’s dance group Om Yuk Vandy will be the technical instructor on the project, which will feature performers from many different backgrounds.

“The purpose of the show is to promote the profile of this ancient Khmer art form, which was inherited from our ancestors. We hope to inspire people – especially the young – to love and support Khmer culture. It is also a great opportunity to encourage the school’s students to perform on a larger stage,” he said.

“We have co-organised this show to celebrate the achievements of three great Khmer heroes, Jayavarman VII and his two wives, Jayaraja Devi and Indra Devi,” he added.

He said that all participating artists will be given additional training before the performance to make the story as attractive as possible, but also in line with the traditional art form.

“The performance of this spectacle will be successful, and will include the participation of spectators from all over the world. We will all promote Cambodian arts together,” he said.

Yuk Vandy, the technical instructor, is over 60 years old, and has been dancing for much of her life.

“The performance focuses especially on the characters of the Princesses Jayaraja Devi and Indra Devi. We focus on their achievements in the fields of education and cultural arts, although in fact, the two were also gifted in architecture and science, among other areas. With classical dance, we cannot explore all of their gifts because we are limited by our form,” she said.

“The idea came from having heard about the two – through inscriptions and published documents. As a specialist in the royal ballet, I was able to bring together many dances and produce this epic story. We try to replicate the beauty of the dances found carved on the walls of the temples to compile these scenes from the Angkorian era,” she added.

Yuk Vandy also thanked the fine arts ministry and the youth federation for their support.

“I am not just happy with the direction of the upcoming performance but also pleased at the encouragement we are receiving for our ancient art,” she said.

“I am even happier when I see a group of young Cambodians volunteering to participate in a classical dance performance like this. Ultimately, I wanted to create a new story for the next generation of dancers,” she added.

Prince Tesso Sisowath, director of the dance school, expressed his pleasure at the creation of the new work.

”I am very proud to present a new ballet performance choreographed by teacher Om Yuk Vandy. All the dance students are very excited to see their hard work pay off when they take to the main stage for the first time,” he said.

The prince added that he was very touched that just two years after the passing of Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, her namesake school is teaching Khmer classical dance skills to Khmer from all walks of life, thanks to teachers Voan Savai and Yuk Vandy.

He expressed his deep gratitude to all involved in this project, the fourth public performance for the school.

There are three tiers of ticketing for the event. VIP tickets are 100,000 riel, the “Green Zone” is 40,000 riel and the “Blue Zone” is 20,000 riel.