Folk dance headlines two-week culture fest

Folk dance headlines two-week culture fest

CAMBODIAN Cultural Day will be marked on Wednesday with a traditional folk dance performance by the Children of Bassac at the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

The event is the culmination of the National Drama and Arts Festival, which began on February 18 and has featured nearly two weeks of performances at Chaktomuk Conference Hall on Sisowath Boulevard.

The festival has brought performing arts troupes from around Cambodia flooding into Phnom Penh in recent weeks. This year marks the first time that the days leading up to Cambodian Cultural Day, which falls on March 3, have been celebrated with so many performances .

Twenty-seven institutions have performed during the festival. For the most part they are the representative groups of the Department of Culture and Fine Arts in each province, with four independent organisations participating as well.

Performances throughout the festival have been free and open to the public at the 592-seat conference hall.

Song Seng, project coordinator at Cambodia Living Arts, said one of the reasons for the festival was to evaluate the quality of the various art forms at this point – over 30 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge – and determine “how many forms are still alive”.

Following an opening ceremony on February 18, the festival got underway on February 19 with a performance of Budh Prawat, the history of the Buddha. The festival’s schedule has included 28 different productions, with classic stories such as Chab Cheab Kabah performed alongside new works.

Some of the works have included new operas composed by talented writers. The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts organised a workshop recently at the Royal University of Fine Arts for opera writers from around the country. They exchanged ideas with hopes of improving and refining the skills of a new generation of artists.

Production of the festival was assisted by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, which owns and operates Chaktomuk Conference Hall. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An helped the artists cover expenses by donating 500,000 riel to small troupes and 1 million riel to large troupes. Department chiefs were encouraged to collect money to cover travel expenses for their local troupes as well.

“Just as each wat will sponsor a boat for the Water Festival, we hope to get them to support one art style so that we can keep the art culture alive and vibrant,” Song Seng said.

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