Angkor Wat will come to life after dark this weekend as the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the French government present “Nights of Angkor,” a music and dance extravaganza to be staged in front of the monument.
Tonight, 90 dancers from the Royal Cambodian Dance Troupe will perform Ko Samot Toek-doh, or Churning of the Sea of Milk, in which the forces of good and evil pull at each end of a naga—the mythical, many-headed serpent.
The troupe staged this famous scene, which is carved on the walls of Angkor Wat, on New Year’s Eve 2000, during the festival held at the monument to mark the advent of the millennium, said Mao Keng, director of performing arts at the ministry.
On Saturday, the classical dancers will present episodes of the Reamke, the Khmer adaptation of the Indian epic Ramayana.
This is the third time since 2000 that the ministry and the French Cultural Center have worked together to hold cultural events in December at Angkor Wat, said Marie-Christine de Navacelle, director of the French Cultural Center. Their goal is to create a tradition of “Nights of Angkor” in order to attract Cambodian and foreign visitors to Siem Reap every December, she said.
As last year, French artists will take part in the event. Dancers from the Ballet de Lorraine will perform excerpts from Swan Lake, Balanchine’s Sleep-walker and Schrodinger’s Cat.
This time, the French government has stepped up its involvement. In addition to the support from the French Embassy in Cambodia, the French Association for Artistic Action, which is part of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is contributing to the festival, said de Navacelle. A French light-and-sound expert has been sent to help stage the two shows, she said. “France has decided to invest in Angkor,” which shows the country’s intention to focus its cultural support in Asia on Cambodia.
“Nights of Angkor” starts at 7 tonight and Saturday. Tickets are $10 for expatriates and 2,000 riel ($0.50) for Cambodians.