Folk dances are performed at religious ceremonies, festivities, and for leisurely entertainment. Traditionally, all dances were performed in the village in large clearings or public areas at times of birth, marriage, death, during planting and harvesting, hunting, war, or at a feast. Some dances are related to Buddhist beliefs such as Kgnork Pailin and Trot dances. Others are performed once a year according to various spiritual and ceremonial calendars.
Khmer folk dances are highly spirited dances that follow popular themes with lively movements and gestures. Dance motifs are usually based on local legends and the everyday life of the people. Dancers dance with easy, improvised yet composed movements that are designed to invite humor and enthusiasm, with an upbeat music and rhythm. Many dances are accompanied by drums and instruments from the Mahori and Pinn peat ensemble.
Originating from Stung Treng Province, Ken dance is often performed at New Year celebrations. The dance depicts a courting scene of men serenading women. The young men play the ken (a type of mouth organ) with a garland hung at the top end of each instrument. By blowing the ken, they move the garland around the young women hope that they will fall in love with them.
This dance was choreographed by Prof. Pol Sam Oeun in 1967 and later supervised by Prof. Chheng Phon. It was performed from 1968 until 1975, and j been revived since 1979.
- MCFA & UNESCO (2004). Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cambodia: A joint publication of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and UNESCO. Cambodia: JSRC Printing House.