Cambodian Dance-Drama: Buddha Overcomes All Obstacles

Saturday, November 10, 2018, 2 PM

Pre-concert gallery talk: “Movement in Southeast Asian Art” by curatorial fellow Emma Natalya Stein, Sackler, level 1, 1 pm

Don’t miss this dramatic retelling of the Buddha’s determined search for enlightenment, featuring classical Cambodian music, dance, and costumes. The play follows the Historical Buddha as he encounters the world outside his family’s palace, renounces secular luxuries, and resists temptations from an army of demons. Long performed in the Khmer court tradition, this dance-drama has not been seen on stage since the 1960s.

Image by Paula Chea
Four master artists from Cambodia, now living in the United States, have carefully restaged the drama: Chum Ngek, recipient of America’s highest honors in the traditional arts from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); Devi Yim, former lead dancer of the Royal Dance Troupe of Cambodia; Sam-Oeun Tes, former dancer in Cambodia’s Royal Palace; and Chan Moly Sam, graduate of Cambodia’s Royal University of Fine Arts. All are part of Cambodian American Heritage, a thirty-eight-year-old Washington-area organization that promotes the preservation and presentation of Khmer culture.

Chum Ngek received the 2004 Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA, conferred upon one artist annually for career-long dedication to preserving, teaching, and performing valuable traditions. Sam-Ouen Tes and Chan Moly Sam were members of the Apsara ensemble, which received a 1998 National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA. Tes is cofounder and artistic director of Cambodian American Heritage, where Devi Yim is dance director.

  • Venue: Freer Gallery of Art
  • Event Location: Freer, Meyer Auditorium
  • Cost: $6 in advance (reserved seating); free at the door