Le théâtre et la danse au Cambodge

by George Groslier

An inspired, often poetical evocation of the ancestral Khmer dance


Publication: Conférence devant les Amis de l´Université de la Sorbonne, Paris

Published: 1930

Author: George Groslier

Pages: 19

Language : French

Since the very first European performance of the Cambodian Royal Ballet during King Sisowath's official visit to France (1906), the Western world had been in awe with the Khmer dancers, the rituals and symbolism of a timeless art.

In this conference, George Groslier, the first non-Cambodian observer allowed to witness, photograph and draw the Royal Ballet during rehearsals, talks with passion and wit about an art form so mysterious to Westerners and even to Cambodian commoners of those times.

"Vous avez vu, cinq heures durant, une vingtaine de jeunes femmes [incarnant] princes, princesses, géants, suivantes, guerriers, parées de vêtements et de bijoux aux formes séculaires, courant, aimant, adorant, combattant, passant des cieux à la terre, remplies de toutes les passions humaines et détentrices de toutes les puissances divines (...) Vous avez suivi un millier de poses agencées d'avance, dont chacune porte un nom et qui s'adaptaient comme dans autant d'empreintes conservées par une atmosphère historique." (Excerpt)

Main illustration: Photo by George Groslier.

Tags: dancers, choreography, Cambodian Royal Ballet

About the Author

George Groslier

George Groslier

George Groslier (4 Feb. 1887, Phnom Penh-16 June 1945, Phnom Penh), the first child with French citizenship born in modern Cambodia, artist, novelist, historian, archaeologist, ethnologist, architect, photographer, founder and curator of the National Museum of Cambodia, was the ultimate "Cambodian scholar".

While organizing the School of Cambodian Arts (nowadays the Royal University of Fine Arts) in the 1920s, he has extensively portrayed and studied the country, its people and its traditions, in his writings, paintings and erudite communications. He founded the Phnom Penh Albert Sarraut Museum in 1919, later to become the Cambodia National Museum. Groslier's wife, Suzanne Poujade (1893-1970), was a niece of Albert Sarraut, former Governor-General of Indochina and then French Minister of the Colonies and future Prime Minister.

George Groslier died prisoner in a Japanese concentration camp when Japan -- although formerly an ally of Petain's French government -- occupied vast swaths of South East Asia. With Suzanne Poujade, he had three children, Nicole, Gilbert and Bernard-Philippe, the latter following his father's steps and becoming an eminent researcher in Cambodian archaeology and history.

Four of his major books -- Cambodian Dancers, Ancient & Modern; In the Shadow of Angkor, Unknown Temples of Ancient Cambodia; Return to Clay, A Romance of Cambodia and Road of the Strong, A Romance of Cambodia -- have been translated into English and published by DatAsia Press.

Read here about the Rue Groslier (Groslier Street) in Phnom Penh (access to National Museum).

George Groslier portrayed in 1913 in the French journal Femina.
Suzanne Poujade and two of the Grosliers' three children in the 1920s (EFEO)
George Groslier with daughter Nicole and Suzanne Poujade, far right, arrive at the Phnom Penh Museum for the 1922 visit of Maréchal Lyautey. Standing on the left side, André Silice and Jean Stoeckel, Groslier's collaborators [photo courtesy of Kent Davis].