In 2003, UNESCO named Cambodia’s Apsara Dance a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. This has not only created further renown for Cambodia’s classical dances but has further elevated their artistic value. Since then, beyond the need to be in Angkor Wat, watching a traditional dance while in Angkor has become a typical must-do for tourists. Enterprising local businessmen recognized this demand. This has given birth to the countless dinner shows offered in bars, restaurants and hotels all over the city. While each and every interpretation is entertaining, one that is deeply rooted to tradition, to the ritualistic essence of the dances continues to be more awe-inspiring. This is the unique, intrinsic value of a performance by the Sacred Dancers of Angkor.
The ‘Sacred Dancers of Angkor’ are students of the first rural and currently, the only conservatory in Cambodia performing sacred Khmer dances. They rarely perform in public which adds to the appeal of coming for their exceptional shows.
The conservatory is funded by the Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia (NKFC). Mrs. Ravynn Karet-Coxen, the head of ‘Preah Ream Boppha Devi Conservatoire’ established NKFC in 1994. She named it after her father Nginn Karet, the cartographer appointed by King Sihanouk to organize the Service Géographique Khmer in 1953. NKFC’S main purpose was to meet the basic needs of the disadvantaged families in various villages in Banteay Srei through the development of programmes focused on providing facilities for clean water, health and nutritional care as well as literacy and skills training.
Mrs. Karet-Coxen established the dance school for the children of the families under the auspices of HRH Princess Buppha Devi, daughter of the late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk and half-sister to King Norodom Sihamoni.
Currently, the population of the 14 villages currently supported by NKFC totals to an estimated 12,778 people of 2,334 families, representing about 40% of the total population of the Banteay Srey District. The Sacred Dancers of Angkor are from these families. They are children who were invited to learn and love the arts of dance and music and are encouraged to excel not for the purpose of making money. There is a strong discipline that comes with their training. The dancers train four hours a day for four days per week and has an extra full day once a week.
There is a divine inspiration within each of their staging which accentuates the fact that they were born and raised on by the temple grounds. Each dance is an echoing ‘’prayer’’ for blessings upon the land, the environment and the people.
Their occasional appearances locally and overseas are consistently met with high acclaim. The Sacred Dancers of Angkor traveled in the United States of America with select performances in key cities in 2014.
The Sacred Dancers of Angkor will be staging a performance on the grounds of Wat Damnak on September 25, 2015 from 7:00-7:15 pm.