Traditional Dancers Ring in Khmer New Year

Wild deer, or rather, men dressed as wild deer, are being ceremonially killed all over Phnom Penh this week.

The ritual slaughter is not a grim occasion but signals the re­viv­al of a traditional art form.

More and more elite Khmer living in Phnom Penh are enlisting Robam Troti dancers to perform the traditional New Year’s cleaning of their homes, cultural officials said this week.

“Its performance has been increasing in recent years,” Ith Chamroeun, deputy director of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said. “Most of the hosts are leaders from government and corporation.”

Robam Troti is performed by 17 dancers, dressed as giants, peacocks, hunters. It was first conceived of by the Samre minority people which once resided near the Tonle Sap, Ith Chamroeun said.

“The deer in the performance is a symbol of bad luck,” Var Sivonn, 46, a dance instructor at the culture ministry said. “All the animals hate the deer and they conspire with the hunter to kill him.”

In Khmer tradition, he said, a wild deer wandering through the village has always been an ill omen.

“When the deer is killed, every one is cheering,” Ith Chamroeun said.

Those wishing to have their homes purified by the dancers pay for the dance. A short show costs between $50 and $100, Ith Chamroeun said.

Kim San, the National As­sem­bly’s Secretary General, said that a group of fine arts students blessed Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s home on Monday to chase away any bad luck he may have.

They were not invited, he said, but performed the rite in the interest of preserving the traditional dance.

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