The Apsara dance is a traditional dance of the Kingdom of Cambodia that dates back to the 7th. The most famous Khmer King of the Angkorian period, Javayarman VII (12th century) was said to have over 3000 Apsara dancers in his court.
This dance is an essential part of the Khmer culture which finds its roots in both Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. According to the Hindu mythology, Apsaras were beautiful female creatures that descended from heaven to entertain Gods and Kings with their dance.
As the Apsara dance is extremely complex, Cambodian children (particularly girls) are trained from a very young age to be able to get enough flexibility to execute intricate movements and to bend their fingers almost to their wrists. Every single movement of the fingers has a particular meaning. Apsara dancers are always well-dressed with traditional costumes that can also be seen on the Angkor temples’ walls. They wear elegant silk clothes with floral motifs, magnificent headdresses and jewelry.
The Apsara dance had almost disappeared during the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979) but the tradition remained thanks to a few surviving dancers who passed on their knowledge to the younger generations. One of the most popular figures on the Apsara revival was the late King Norodom Sihanouk’s daughter, Princess Bopha Devi, who went on to become the face of Khmer traditional dance in the 1950’s and 1960’s both in Cambodia and around the world.
In 2003, the UNESCO recognized the Apsara dance as a Masterpiece of oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
No visit to Cambodia is complete without watching a performance of this unique and beautiful dance. Contact Green Cultural Travel to find out where the best place to view an Apsara dance is and book a dance and dinner tour.