The Beginning

Beginning of Khmer Dance Project

The project was born when Anne Bass, an American patron of the arts- and of dance in particular, realized that ancient traditions of Royal Khmer dance were at risk of not being handed down properly to future generations. With the advice of Philippe Peycam, Director of the Center for Khmer Studies, and in collaboration with the New York Public Library, it was decided that a comprehensive data base would be created. Destined for the NYPL’s Jerome Robbins Dance Division (JRDD), home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of dance material, this data base is a pioneering achievement due to the sheer scope of gathered media: written documents, videos, photos, and music.

It is anticipated that copies of the KDP material will also be given to the Library of the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS). CKS
has already received copies of recorded material from Cambodian Living Arts that has been generated from the Music Masters program.

Advice was also given by Cecily Cook of the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), New York. In 1975-76, NYPL’s JRDD worked with the parent organization of ACC, the John D Rockefeller III Fund, which sponsored a project that included travel to Asia with the purpose of conducting in depth research of Asian Dance by Gigi Oswald, then curator of JRDD. At that time the political situation precluded including Cambodia and since that time little has been done to strengthen Asian material at JRDD.

To provide wide access to this material, especially all of KDP’s original interviews, a translation program will provide Khmer transcripts and English subtitles.

Launch of the Khmer Dance Project

The Khmer Dance Project was launched in March 2008, led by former dancer and scholar, Suppya Nut, along with Pen Hun, a young dancer completing a Master’s degree on Khmer dance in Thailand. They planned and conducted the interviews of artists in Cambodia while Michelle Potter, NYPL’s recently retired curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, helped them to establish interview formats and release forms that would conform to those used by the JRDD. A crew from Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre, cameramen Mesa Prum and Visal Sea completed the team.

The Bophana Centre is playing an important role not only in filming but also in copying all master footage and in storing original material until the project is completed. This close relationship was made possible thanks to the commitment of Rithy Panh, the founder and director of Bophana, who acted as project counselor. The project is greatly indebted to HRH Princess Norodom Buppha Devi who is very concerned about the future of Royal Khmer dance and the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. Both she and Proeung Chhieng, the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA), have supported the project from the very beginning.

KDP is also indebted to Fred Frumberg, Director of AMRITA Performing Arts, for his advice and for the photos and biographies of some of the Royal Khmer Dancers. The Khmer Dance Project would like to especially thank and express its appreciation to His Majesty, King Norodom Sihamoni, who displayed a profound interest and strong support of the project by according us two royal audiences.