From Ritual Form to Tourist Attraction: Negotiating the Transformation of Classical Cambodian Dance in a Changing World
Abstract

According to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage website, classical Cambodian dance is a sacred practice that embodies the spiritual essence of the country’s values and traditions. This article asks, What happens when the sacred becomes the profane, the normal, the everyday? It explores how the sacred classical dance form of the past evolved into the entertainment genre it is today. Focusing on the dinner-dance show phenomenon, the author investigates negotiations that are taking place between the preservation and development of the arts in Siem Reap after decades of civil war decimated the artist population. The tourist shows both provide some economic stability for dancers and strip away some sacred aspects of the art form. The article gives insight into how a ritualistic performing art form adapts to changing environments while maintaining social relevance.


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