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An evening of Cambodian dance in Tokyo

On the evening of May 16, various kinds of traditional Cambodian dance were performed at the open-air Citizens’ Plaza of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings in Shinjuku Ward.

Commemorating the 60th anniversary of Japan-Cambodia diplomatic relations, the performance took place as part of a two-day cultural exchange event, Open-Air Noh and Cambodian Dance, which was organized by the non-profit International Foundation for Arts and Culture, supported by the Royal Embassy of Cambodia and other institutions.

Amid the rainy weather, Haruhisa Handa, chairman of the IFAC and honorary consul of Cambodia in Fukuoka, said, “Yesterday, the ‘takigi’ noh (noh performed on an open-air stage) was favored by good weather, and today we could say that it is a blessed rain.” Having worked for Cambodia in various fields over the last 17 years, Handa also emphasized the importance of cultural exchange.

Cambodian Ambassador Hor Monirath also delivered a speech, expressing his appreciation to the IFAC and supporters. “This is a rare opportunity to see a large group of Cambodian dancers in Japan,” he said.

The program began with the gallant “bokotor,” a form of ancient Khmer martial art, which was followed by various folk dances, such as the comical Grasshopper Dance and joyful Rice Cultivating Dance, as well as slow and elegant classical dances, including the ceremonial Apsara Dance, symbolic Taye Dance and Sovann Maccha, a traditional dramatic dance based on the Cambodian version of the “Ramayana.”

Although Cambodian classical dance of the royal court once came under threat of elimination during the civil war, the royal family and surviving performers worked together to reopen the Royal University of Fine Arts in 1980 and have revived the tradition. The dance is registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, just like noh.

Despite the rain, some 1,700 spectators holding umbrellas or donning raincoats enjoyed the performances. A warm round of applause was given to the Cambodia’s Art Troupe dancers, the 28 select members of the RUFA, who capped the evening with a special friendship dance waving the flags of Japan and Cambodia.