The reign of King Sisowath (1904-1927) is the period of Cambodian history which left the most extensive iconographic archives documenting the history of Cambodian court dance (nowadays known as royal ballet or classical dance). The Bophana Center is home to the majority of the oldest movies ever made of these dancers who fascinated the foreign public during France’s colonial exhibitions in the first half of the 20th century. This presentation will help illustrate some of these “moving archives” by explaining their context and content. It will also highlight the unique features and characteristics of the ancient gestures and costumes captured in the movies with demonstrations by Serei Vankosaun. She is a renowned dancer who figured in Princess Norodom Buppha Devi’s last choreographies, which depicted the ancient dance style as embodied history.
Dr. Lucie Labbé is a cultural anthropologist whose work is currently supported by the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS). She is also affiliated with the Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CNRS, EHESS, INALCO) in Paris. Her research deals with Khmer royal, or classical, dance with particular attention to apprenticeship, its techniques and rituals, as well as to the relations between aesthetics and authority. For the last few years, she has also been extensively documenting the colonial history and iconography of royal Cambodian dancers as a post-doctoral researcher funded by CKS and the EFEO (École Française d’Extrême-Orient).
Ms. Samedy Suong, CKS Deputy Director