Dance Preview: Cambodia Troupe Preserves its Cultural Heritage

“Dance Preview: Cambodia Troupe Preserves its Cultural Heritage”

by Jane Vranish  via “Pittsburgh Gazette

20141104hoCambodiaMag04 The Royal Ballet of Cambodia.

There is a lesson to be learned from the Royal Ballet of Cambodia: that, no matter what, the arts will persevere. When this company tours, it is more than a respected dance troupe; it is a true symbol, much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, of its small southeastern Asia country that has been beleaguered over the centuries.

So when the troupe comes to the Byham Theater Friday as a special presentation of Cohen & Grigsby Trust, it will demonstrate not only the art of dance but the art of survival.

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia
Where: Byham Theater, Downtown.
When: 8 p.m., Friday,.
Tickets: $20-$45; 412-456-6666, or Theater Square Box Office.

The ballet has recently served as an ambassador, performing its ritualistic dances for heads of state. It also served as a reminder of Cambodia’s attempt during the Vietnam War to remain neutral.

All along the Royal Ballet had been treading a fine line between heaven and earth. It was considered to have ties to the gods, but also served as a harem to Cambodian kings, the dancers restricted to palace grounds.

The company persevered while Cambodia was marked by inner turmoil and outside conflicts with other nations, most notably Thailand and France. The French controlled the country from 1864 to 1953, when Cambodia achieved independence. At one point, the French tried to disband the troupe, but a young King Sihanouk and his mother, Queen Kossamak, recognizing its political and spiritual importance, reinstated it. At that time, the queen codified and modernized the technique. Dancers moved out of the palace and into the city.

The company suffered a setback in 1975, when Cambodia was overtaken by the notorious Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. Most of the company was killed in the genocide that followed. Those few who successfully hid among the people emerged in the 1980s to painstakingly reconstruct the company. Today it tours the world, led by Her Royal Highness Princess Norodom Buppha Devi, who serves as the company’s choreographer. In a tribute to the group’s importance in preserving the 1,000-year old Khmer dance style, UNESCO recognized the ballet as part of its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003.

The Royal Ballet is known worldwide for its delicacy of style and nuance. The dancers stretch every morning into impossibly difficult poses, particularly hand gestures that are remarkable for their flexibility. Chamroeuntola Chap, one of eight female “stars” on the current U.S. tour, says it should feel “like you’re floating.” But she says it took years of training to achieve, including a stint at the university to learn the troupe’s history. . . . .


“Archaeologists Train “Monuments Men” to Save Syria’s Past”

“Archaeologists Train “Monuments Men” to Save Syria’s Past”

by Andrew Curry via “National Geographic

Amid the devastation and danger of civil war, Syrian archaeologists and activists are risking their lives in the battle against looting. . . .

Photo of Free Syrian Army fighters walking with their weapons in the Umayyad mosque of Old Aleppo.

The ancient city of Dura-Europos sits on a bluff above the Tigris River a few miles from Syria’s border with Iraq, its mud-brick walls facing a bleak expanse of desert. Just a year ago the city’s precise grid of streets—laid down by Greek and Roman residents 2,000 years ago—was largely intact. Temples, houses, and a substantial Roman outpost were preserved for centuries by the desert sands.

“It stood out for its remarkable preservation,” saysSimon James, an archaeologist at the U.K.’s University of Leicester who spent years studying the site’s Roman garrison. “Until now.” (See before and after pictures of archaeological site looting.)

Satellite images of the site released by the U.S. State Department in June show a shocking picture of devastation. In the past year, as fighting continued to rage between the government of President Bashar al Assad’s troops and rebels—including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria—the site has been ravaged by industrial-scale looting.

Photo of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo in 2009.

Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque is seen here in 2009, before being damaged in the civil unrest.

“It’s a lunar landscape of spoil heaps,” says James. “Obviously, the looters were bankrolled to a massive extent to do something like this.”

It may be too late to save Dura-Europos, but archaeologists and activists are scrambling to preserve what’s left of Syria’s rich history, which stretches back more than 10,000 years. The efforts are focused on training locals to save ancient monuments and museum collections in the midst of a war zone.

Organizations including the University of Pennsylvania’s Cultural Heritage Center, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and Heritage for Peace, a network of volunteers and activists based in Spain, have been holding workshops to train Syrian archaeologists, curators, and activists in “first aid for objects and sites,” says Emma Cunliffe, a consultant specializing in heritage protection during conflicts.  . . .”


Egypt Ups Efforts to Protect Cultural Heritage

Egypt Ups Efforts to Protect Cultural Heritage

by Elisabeth Lehmann via “DW”

Protecting valuable antiquities is a serious task in Egypt, where grave robbery has increased dramatically since 2011. German researchers accused of the crime are currently standing trial in Cairo.

Pyramid of Giza

“Look at the cracks – the pyramids are really in danger,” says Osama Karar, as he points to the screen of his laptop, and flicks through countless photos showing damage to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Karar and his colleagues have founded an organization called The People’s Front in Defence of Relics.

He turns from his laptop, and looks outside at the huge pyramid stretching out before him. “These stones can’t speak, so we try and give them a voice,” he says.

Indeed, the stones of the Great Pyramid would have a lot to tell. For example, that in April 2013, a German research team led by the Chemnitz-based experimental archaeologist Dominique Görlitz entered a small room under the tip of the pyramid – the King’s Chamber belonging to Pharaoh Khufu.

The team took samples from the murals and cartouche, and brought them back to Germany for laboratory analysis. And all this without the proper permit. They were granted a partial permit, as Ali Ahmad Ali from the Ministry of State for Antiquities in Cairo stressed, but “the permit does not cover a visit to the upper chamber. And the permit says: only visit, do not take any parts.”

On Saturday (7.06.2014), the trial of the research team – made up of three Germans and their six Egyptian assistants – got underway in Cairo. They are accused of vandalism offenses in the Great Pyramid of Giza, and at worst, could face between three and five years in prison.