Apsara Dance

The Apsara Dance is one of the two major forms of Khmer dancing, and incorporates parts of the other much older traditional or popular dancing, which has its roots in animism and primitive magic. Hindu forms were also introduced during the time of Indian contact beginning in the 1st century.

Apsara Dancing

It is estimated that there were 3,000 Apsara dancers in the 12th-century court of King Jayavarman VII. Over the centuries Khmer dancing lent its influence to the classical ballet of the neighboring countries, and some of its postures and movements are similar to other Southeast Asian dance forms. But according to Princess Bopha Devi, "The Khmer kingdom started its traditions in the 8th century, 500 years before Thailand".

Apsara dancing is one of the two elements of classical ballet, depicting early myths. Many of the dances involve performing a fragment of the Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic. Others are based on the legendary battles and mythical sagas carved in bas-relief on the walls of the temples of Angkor, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk, the great battle between gods and demons for the holy liquid that gives immortality. There are four typical roles of Khmer dance: male, female, giant, and monkey. The first three being the domain of women and girls, leaving the monkey roles to the men. In the early days, it is believed that all dancers were female. Most of the dancers in the Royal Dance Troupe today are female.

Dancing holds great significance for the Khmer people, and the royal government considers the Royal Ballet in particular a national treasure.



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