Phnom Penh: Prime Minister Hun Sen has paid tribute to Cambodia’s Royal Ballet icon, Em Theay, who passed away shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning after a long illness, at the age of 88.
The Prime Minister says together with his wife he is “deeply moved” and has expressed his “deepest condolences” for the loss of a “pious grandmother and an outstanding artist” who was an integral part of Cambodia’s heritage. Em Theay was considered an elder of the Royal Ballet and the last living legacy of Khmer classical dance. Her death was announced by her great-grandchild on Tuesday morning via social media.
Em Theay was a famous dancer and dance teacher in the Royal Palace, just like her mother before her. She was still performing and teaching in the palace during the Lon Nol regime, but in April 1975, her life changed completely. Under the Pol Pot regime, she was forced to leave Phnom Penh, along with millions of others. She once told a reporter that she only survived the Khmer Rouge because of her dancing skills.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Em Theay returned to Phnom Penh and worked tirelessly to revive the art form she had dedicated her life to.