Day 10 : Auguste Rodin and the cambodian dancers…

June 16, 2016 by Gregory Herpe

It is July 1906, and during his stay in Paris for a special performance at the Theatre du Pré Catelan in the Bois de Boulogne, Auguste Rodin is overwhelmed by the movements of a yet unknown dance: the Cambodian dance.

Emotionally blown away, he started a series of drawings. But the dancers are expected at Marseille!

Rodin cannot stop them from leaving, but he needs to know their movements completely. He leaves everything on the spot, and accompanies them to Marseille, without even taking time to take neither paper nor equipment.

The range of studies of movements and feminine draping, he then will accomplish, is now considered as one of the very best of his career. Within a week, he executes 150 drawings before the Royal Ballet of Cambodia embarks for Cambodia. He is fascinated by the aesthetic grace of their hands and arms. Later he watercolors these sketches with a near-perfect harmony.

Rodin will attach special importance to this series and exhibits in the most prestigious locations, demonstrating that the brilliant sculptor is also an impressive draftsman.

Today, the dances ‘Apsaras’ experience a increasingly intense popularity.

The Khmer are offering the dances to the spirits so that misfortunes of all kinds will be chased away, and that it brings peace back, or heavy rain. Sometimes they dance to have fun and forget the weariness of a hard life.

This morning at Happy Chandara, students of all ages were taking their Cambodian dance classes.


It’s amazing how rigorously they relax their fingers, and their feet.


Eyes are serious, deep, and one can see in their eyes this tradition is not to joke with.


The emotion is palpable, and I understand Rodin, admiring and speechless before these graceful bodies distending with a rare harmony.

A short ride into the village of Prek Thmey; just in time to see two laughing rascals, totally naked, taking a shower.

They are launching water towards me with a pan, exploding into laughter every time they touch Well …



School is out for today …their target!


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