Even though Royal Khmer dance is known worldwide and has recently been recognized through the Royal Ballet of Cambodia by UNESCO, no systematic inventory of all the facets of this art form has yet been undertaken. The task of collecting resources is ever more urgent as old master dancers disappear, one after the other. The Khmer Dance Project, funded by Anne H. Bass and in collaboration with the Jerome Robbins Dance Division (JRDD) of the Library of the Performing Arts (LPA) of the New York Public Library (NYPL), has taken on this vital project.
The Khmer Dance Project (KDP) has started amassing documents on the Royal Khmer dance in order to build a broad and comprehensive data base with the intention of eventually giving free-access to individuals (private, researchers, dancers, etc…) interested in this art.
In light of Cambodia’s recent history, with the disappearance of the majority of artists under the Khmer Rouge regime, and due to advanced age, the continuing deaths of the survivors, this project is more crucial and significant than ever. Furthermore, Khmer society is undergoing enormous changes, and institutions, such as the Royal Court, that supported the traditional performing arts in the past, no longer do so. At the same time, external influences are giving rise to new cultures, and the values that had supported performing arts are also undergoing transformation. The Royal Khmer dance is struggling in an age where it is increasingly difficult to transmit traditional performing arts in their original form.
There have been a number of previous initiatives in which the old masters of this art form have been interviewed in order to create an oral history. These efforts have also often included collecting any written documents, photographs, audio and visual recordings that could be found. It is hoped that as the Khmer Dance Project gains momentum and credibility any private individuals and institutions that have such material will donate it. In due course it is intended that this information will be freely available in digital form.