This was originally posted by Frodo in the French language forum. I found it so fascinating I have done a quick translation for English readers here.
The original is found at: http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=18;t=001440
During a stay in Cambodia this summer, I discovered the history of the ballet dancing Khmer, which is completely singular.
Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire of 9th at the 15th century. At that time, the most beautiful temples of all Far East were built. From the 15 century, they abandoned and were covered by the tropical forest. It is only at the 19th century that the Westerners discover this city, in particular with the botanist Henri Mouhot who visits the country of 1858 to 1861. With colonization, the French school of the Far East endeavours to restore the temples and to include/understand this forgotten culture. Were then discovered on the walls of the temples of very many sculptures of Apsaras, the celestial dancers.
These sculptures are really extraordinary, in particular in the most famous temple, Angkor Wat. Here are some examples: http://www.angkorvat.com/Apsara.asp
With those which go soon to Angkor Wat, do not forget to leave on the left, with the first wall. One finds there very beautiful Apsaras and it is deserted!
For the anecdote, when we went there with our guide, there were only two young French, who obviously followed the indications of the book that they had with the hand. After one moment, they realized, thanks to the photograph on the cover, that its author was our guide (Hy Sanh, "Visiter Angkor" - sold on Amazon)! It had been too modest to say to us that it was a true size!
The sculptors of the time in particular succeeded in reproducing, on the stone, of the transparent skirts. What is also extraordinary, they is that the sculptures protected from the bad weather kept the colors of origin, since nearly ten centuries!
By deciphering the writing Khmer on the walls, the explorers discovered that certain temples counted more than thousand dancers.
After the decline of Angkor, the dance of Apsaras practically disappeared.
A revival of the ballet dancing intervened with the queen Sisowath Kossomak (1904-1975). The craftsmen of this rebirth were then based on scupltures of the temples for the gestures, the costumes, the hairstyles or the jewels.
Some explanations on the dance Khmer: http://apsara2001.ifrance.com/apsara2001/Cambodge/le_ballet_royal.htm
In 1964, the princess Buppha Devi, the largest Cambodian prima ballerina, occurred with the Royal Ballet with the Garnier Palate, in front of Prince and General de Gaulle Norodom Sihanouk.
But this revival was stopped Net with the mode of the Khmer Rouges (1975-1978), during whom 90 % of the dancers were killed. This appalling genocide failed to involve the final disappearance of the ballet dancing Khmer.
With force of will, the Royal Ballet has ressuscity and a hundred girls follows today the courses of dance of the royal University of the fine arts of Phnom Penh.
Those which are interested can consult the book of art of Christophe Lovini, "the crowned dancers of Angkor", which includes/understands superb photographs. One finds it in Fnac. http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/books/2020531488/reviews/ref=cm_rev_more/171-8182630-4325869#3
Unfortunately, I was not likely to see the Royal Ballet, which occurs for the special occasionss. It came to Paris in 1994 and 1999. Did some among assist you with these representations?
In any case, for those which still hesitate to go in Angkor, it is the moment or never! Crowd did not invade yet the country and it is possible to saunter everywhere in the temples. But in front of the surge of tourists which prepares, the authorities have the project to make visit Angkor Wat by small groups, according to a predetermined way. It is thus necessary to hurry to go to admire this wonder!