This is the third in a series of films about the role of dance in Asia’s cultures, which often is of central importance to their cultures. In this week’s film we see the importance of the classical Royal Ballet to Cambodian culture.
The film looks at the the restoration of the Royal Ballet in the mid-20th century, largely through the work of Queen Sisowath Kosamak and her star performer and granddaughter, Princess Norodom Bopha Devi.
We also learn something of the disastrous collapse of culture during the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge times, and the difficulties artists faced even in staying alive during those times, as being identified with the bourgeois arts meant certain death.
Koun was one of those who did survive, though she lost two children along the way. She went on to become a teacher of the dance, and she now has two fine daughters who are leading lights in the Ballet.
We see their very strict training, and those of other aspirants, who work to pass on the ballet to the coming generations, including one boy from the slums who dreams of dancing as the White Monkey Hanuman.
The film ends with a short record of one of the dances put on outside the Angkor temple where the dances originated some thousand years ago.
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