MORE than sixty students and a few young teachers from the Royal Ballet performed
before captivated audiences last weekend during three shows at Chatomuk Theater in
The two-hour performances included a variety of folk and classical dances that are
part of the traditional repertoire of the Royal Ballet, according to the dean of
the Choreography Department at Phnom Penh's School of Fine Arts. "Performance
is an integral part of the dance curriculum," says Dean Proeung Chhieng, himself
a former dancer with the ballet in the 50's and 60's.
Today, Proeung Chhieng is among the few remaining experienced dancer and choreographers
"We worry about the loss of our precious dances and our artistic heritage,"
he says, explaining that budget cuts within the Ministry of Education threaten to
greatly affect the current efforts to keep this traditional art form alive. Currently,
the program relies heavily on sponsorships and donations by private and international
organizations. But these are often directed to fund international performances by
the Royal ballet, leaving operational costs of the department uncovered.
"The costs of running the dance department are quite high, and we never have
enough costumes and artistic materials," says Proeung Chhieng, adding that the
Royal ballet students had already performed in the United States, Japan, Thailand
An exception is the mentor program sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation which
allows young teachers to learn from some of the original members of the Royal Ballet.
"Some of the oldest teachers were already experienced dancers with the Royal
Ballet prior to 1975," says Proeung Chhieng.
Hopes for the future include the establishment of several permanent dance groups
around the country, including in the Northeast, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.