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A Dancing Legacy
September 27 | Ballet performance | National Theatre

Upholding a country's dance tradition has probably never been more important nation building than this initiative.

In celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27, which focuses on the theme of tourism and community development, the Ministry of Culture in Bahrain brings the Royal Ballet of Cambodia to Bahrain's shores. Renowned for its grace and choreography, the performing art has been Cambodia's pride and legacy, steeped in the rich history of a home-grown talent that has survived a tormented past.

The Royal Ballet dates back to more than a thousand years and was more recently closely linked to the royal courts, where it was believed to have been established under the guidance of Queen Sisowath Kossamak Nearyrath.

Some of the more accomplished dancers were victimised by the atrocity-ridden ruling of the Khmer Rouge in the early 1980s when cultural traditions were banned. However, the art continued to live on, especially with the opening of the ballet school within the palace grounds.

Now, the Royal Cambodian Ballet has been revived thanks to the efforts of Queen Kossamak's daughter, Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, an ex-principal ballerina, former Cambodian Minister of Culture and current director of the company. As Cambodia hopes to expand its tourism, celebrating World Tourism Day is of utmost significance to a country which is still one of the poorest.

Divine spectacle
Lights and Shadows is a recent production, choreographed by Princess Buppha Devi for the Salle Pleyel in Paris in 2014. The Khmer shadow puppet theatre act, featuring 30 artists in an experimental combination, was staged at the Teatro Malibran in Venezia before it set off on a world tour this May.

The act was included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2004. The theatre dates back to the Angkorian period, using puppets cut out from leather to create shadows. The performance is based on the Hindu epic Ramayana, the reference for theatre in Southeast Asia for centuries.

Styled to perfection
Differing completely from the Western style, the Eastern ballet often speak with their hands rather than speech. The classical dancers or apsaras - young and elegant women known for their art of dancing, are accompanied by the Pinpeat orchestra. .