Earth in Flower is a comprehensive historical analysis of Southeast Asia’s most esoteric female performing art: the ancient Khmer classical dance formerly known as the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. Over the past millennium, these women were living goddesses, priestesses, performers, queens, concubines, hostages and diplomats.
In May 2008, the first print edition of Earth in Flower will be released revealing complete details of this dance tradition and offering new insights into the origins and spiritual basis of this unique performing art.
A wartime twist of fate during Cambodia's tumultuous Lon Nol regime made University of Hawaii researcher Paul Cravath one of the only Westerners in history to gain full access to the formerly sequestered troupe of royal dancers, their teachers, theater and archives. Following primary research in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, the author spent ten years doing archival and primary research in the United States. After submitting the study as his doctoral thesis, the paper was only seen by a handful of researchers on microfilm available from UMI
The primary sources that the Cambodian Ministry of Culture made available to the author where themselves unique. Even more critical was the time he gathered the information; between January and April, 1975. The author escaped Phnom Penh on a military transport with his research intact on April 6, 1975; the city fell to the Khmer Rouge on April 15th, beginning one of the most destructive genocides in human history. Under the Khmer Rouge, most of the people and archives the author accessed were destroyed. It is estimated that 90% of Cambodia's dancers and teachers perished.
Beginning in 2005, the publisher and author collaborated to issue a publicly available edition of this research to add to the cultural record of the Cambodian people. The book edition of Earth in Flower contains the complete original thesis with additional photos, new graphics, and supplemental information.
Saem in Her Festival Attire By Jean Despujols
In the 1930’s, Saem was a dancer with Princess Wongat Say Sangvann’s royal troupe in Phnom Penh. The princess married the youngest son of King Sisowath Monivong, Prince Yong Kath, when she herself was a royal dancer. Saem’s skill impressed the princess, who adopted her as a foster child. In 1937, Despujols painted Saem on the Rainbow Bridge at Angkor Wat where special dance performances were held; she holds her right hand in the classic gesture symbolizing a flower.
Saem’s “Cinderella story” embodies the history of the Cambodian dance tradition and the hope of Cambodia’s future. In ancient times, girls from all levels of society pledged their service to temples and to learning the dance. Saem’s devotion to the art led to her royal adoption. Her story speaks to the modern Spirit of Cambodia, empowering women and men from every level in society to participate in the Khmer Renaissance.
The Artist - Jean Despujols
Jean Despujols gained renown early in his career when he won the Prix de Rome scholarship in 1914. In 1936, the Société des Artistes Coloniaux in Paris selected Despujols to travel throughout French Indochina to record his impressions on canvas and paper. His evocative works were only exhibited a few times until 1969 when they became part of the permanent collection of the Meadows Museum of Art at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Meadows Museum of Art granted permission to feature this artwork on the cover of Earth in Flower.
Earth in Flower - The Divine Mystery of the Cambodian Dance Drama
| TABLE OF CONTENTS|
LIST OF TABLES & ILLUSTRATIONS
NOTES ON TRANSLITERATION
ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE FOOTNOTES
Historical Perspective of the Present Study
Earliest Evidence of Dance in Southeast Asia
The Fifteenth Century
The Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries
Dance in the Early Nineteenth Century
Dance in the Reign of Ang Duong (1841-1859)
Dance in the Reign of Norodom (1860-1904)
Dance in the Reign of Sisowath (1904-1927)
Dance in the Reign of Monivong (1928-1941)
Dance in the Sihanouk Era (1941-1970)
Dance in the Republic (1970-1975) and After
Classical Dance in Kampuchea
The Myth of Liu Ye
| The Primordial Maiden as Tree Spirit|
The Primordial Maiden and the Moon
The Primordial Maiden as Earth Spirit
The Unity of the Primordial Maiden
Complementary Dualism in the Dance Drama
The Dancer in Female Roles
The Dancer in Male Roles
The Dancer in Yakkha and Monkey Roles
The Archetype of the Androgyne
The Dramatic Repertoire: Roeung
MUSIC AND CHANT IN THE DANCE DRAMA
CHOREOGRAPHY IN THE DANCE DRAMA
STAGING THE DANCE DRAMA
Entrance to Training
Dance as a Traditional Offering
I. The Royal Palace Theatre, ca.1910
ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE BIBLIOGRAPHY