Modern day Cambodia is a complex mix of Buddhist beliefs, the harmony and order of naturism, animism and an increasing influence of Globalism and Western individualism. Dance is an important aspect of all East Asian cultures, and in Cambodia’s case one can see a strong animist thread.
Prumsodun Ok, a leading classical dancer, who also happens to be a champion of LGBTQ rights in Cambodia, comments that:
‘When you look at a Khmer classical dancer, you will find a strong aesthetic of curves. There is an arching in the back, a bending in the knees, and a curling of the toes. In the arms there is a hyper-flexing of the elbow and the fingers are flexed back in an extreme curve often mistaken for double-jointedness. Moving slowly, lower body grounded but upper body more fluid, this gives the dancer a serpentine impression. This is significant as, before the introduction of Hinduism and Buddhism, our ancestors practiced ancestor worship and animism‘. (2018: 7)
His TED talk is both a concise explanation of a beautiful art form, and a powerful summary of the angst of Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge.
Header Image: Prumsodun Ok by Lim Sokchanlina. Available at: https://www.prumsodun.com/copy-of-home (accessed 25/05/2019).
PRUMSODUN, OK. 2018. The Serpent’s Tail: A Brief History of Khmer Classical Dance. Self-published. Available at: https://www.serpentstail.info (accessed 20/05/2019).