Apsara dance, the traditional dance of Khmer people, was originated from Hinduism and performed by Apsara fairies to entertain Gods since the 1st century. During the Angkor era (8th to 15th century), Apsara was an indispensable performance at every occasion honoring Hinduism Gods. Beside Gods, Apsara dance was also performed to entertain royal family and imperial people.
Apsara fairies are charming Khmer girls, incredibly gorgeous with gentle gestures and are known as special maids of Indra, the lord of all gods. Fairies always wear tight shirts in bright colors, traditional sampot skirts (Khmer style), and hat in temple-shape which is golden and sophisticatedly decorated. The Apsara dance is famous for its elegance, nobility and softness. Every movement displays a balance in soul, no frustration or rush.
Dancers perform gently, leisurely and comfortably as if they were just wandering and playing around their own royal garden. When performing, dancers look like moving statues stepping out from the soulful carvings on the ancient temples.
This authentic Cambodia art was nearly vanished when the Khmer Rouge regime decimated much of the country in the late 1970s. Almost 90 percent of Cambodia’s intellectuals and artists were systematically eliminated by the Khmer Rouge, devastating what had been a flourishing artistic community. However, the dance has been making a comeback in Cambodia in recent years, and is now an interesting performance in Phnom Penh.
The Apsara dance reflects the charms of Cambodia’s religion and its people. It is entertaining and beautiful, offering fascinating insight into historical provincial Cambodian life and culture. While you are in Phnom Penh, learn more about Cambodian culture by watching an Apsara dance.