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 cere¬monial 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 instru¬ments from the Mahori and Pinn peat ensemble. One of many popular Khmer folk dances is Robam Nesat (Khmer Fishing Dance).
There is a saying in Cambodia “Where there is water, there are fish”. There is a lively folk dance describes the daily life of Khmer farmers and fishermen, who dance with traditional bamboo fishing equipment such as Ang Rut and Chhneang. In this dance, you see two traditional methods of catching fish; the use of braided bamboo baskets called Chhneang and bell-shaped traps are known locally as Ang Rut. Young women scoop water from the river into their Chhneang which act as strainers. As the water drains through the bamboo strips, small fish are trapped in these baskets. The men would use the Angrut for catching larger fish in shallow water.
Love and romance are favorite themes in Khmer stories and dances. In traditional Cambodian society, young people are carefully watched and have few opportunities to get to know another. But the fishing quarter is one place they have a chance to meet. Due to, the charming courting scene ends the piece with playful teasing among the young men and women, making this dance very popular among audiences today. The dance was choreography in 1967 by Mr. Vann Sun Heng, and supervised by Prof. Chheng Phon. It was performed from 1967 until 1975, and has been revived since 1979.
At the beginning of the dance, young men come down to the river on one side and women from the other. The dance expresses their joy; how happy and excited they are when they meet each other. As they fish, they flirt with each other. The boys playful snatch the girl’s fishing baskets and they make merry.
In the dance, the group would have split leaving one young couple behind and they fell in love. At the end of the dance, the group returns to tease and congratulate them.
- 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.
- Cam-History (2016, February 25). Fishing Dance [Blog Spot]. Retrieved from http://cam-history.blogspot.com/2016/02/fishing-dance.html
- Khmer guide (nd). Culture and Traditional – continue. Retrieved from http://www.khmerguide.com/culture_traditional2.php