Renowned for its elegant hand movements and exquisite attire, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, also referred to as Khmer Classical Dance, shares a profound connection with the Khmer court that spans more than a millennium.

Marking two decades since UNESCO’s acknowledgment of the Royal Ballet, scholars throughout the realm have called for increased promotion of this time-honoured dance form, with a view to safeguarding it for posterity.

Cambodian historian Sambo Manara explained that this classical dance tradition initially had an exclusive domain within the Royal Palace, reserved for the eyes of monarchs alone.

“This dance boasts a rich history intertwined with temple sculptures, jewellery, costumes and decorations,” he said.

Manara went on to explain that the dance now caters to a broader Cambodian audience, serving as a means to enhance their appreciation of their heritage and play a role in safeguarding this performing art. He also underscored that the dance’s historical roots are deeply embedded in the moral values that symbolise Cambodian identity.

“When it comes to Khmer Classical Dance, the people hold it in great esteem, for this artistic expression was born on our soil. The monarchs upheld the dance to convey the essence of our national identity,” he affirmed.

Manara called upon all Cambodians to intensify the promotion of their national cultural heritage, with a particular focus on the Royal Ballet, aiming to offer a more profound insight into this art form and exhibit Cambodia’s culture to the world.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said that Royal Ballet performances have traditionally been an integral part of royal ceremonies and significant events, including coronations, weddings, funerals and Khmer holidays. Imbued with a sacred and symbolic significance, the dance epitomises the enduring values of elegance, reverence and spirituality. Its repertoire perpetuates the legends intertwined with the Khmer people’s origins.

The Royal Ballet earned its place on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage on November 7, 2003.

The ministry also affirmed that the nation regards the Royal Ballet as a priceless embodiment of cultural patrimony, warranting both preservation and extensive promotion.

Government officials, national organisations, the private sector and members of the public took to social media to mark the 20th anniversary of the Royal Ballet’s recognition. They collectively regard this dance as a cherished cultural asset, highlighting the need for its celebration.