The Apsara cambodian dancers, a real jewel from Cambodia

To watch an Apsara’s dance show in Cambodia

To see an Apsara’s dance show in Cambodia is a delight for the eyes and I strongly encourage you to watch one if you come to visit Cambodia.

The Apsara dancers’ beauty is unequalled and undoubtedly increased by the richness of their traditional costumes. The dancer's glitter with a thousand lights under their flashy, fake jewels covering them from head to toe. Cambodian real jewel, the Apsara dancers convey grace and poetry which are expressed within each of their gestures. Their slow stylized movement, followed by controlled hand gestures, is giving a completely celestial dimension to the dance they impersonate. This classical form of dance that is the Apsara’s dance has characterized Cambodian tradition during centuries and still holds an important part in the Cambodian culture today.

Apsara dancer

Apsara dancer from Cambodia

Jewels and accessories, the splendour of the Apsara’s costumes

The jewels and accessories of the Cambodian Apsara’s dance dresses are absolutely magnificent. They are the heritage of a glorious past, of an era when Angkor was at its peak. All the jewels and their trade secrets have made it through centuries for our great pleasure!

Originally, some of these jewels were manufactured from lacquer applied on a leather piece, itself maintained by a wireframe. The assembled pieces were then decorated with glass beads, brass and gilding. Bracelets, in turn, were made in golden copper.

Today, they are still manufacturing these jewels and accessories to adorn the most beautiful Apsara’s dancer of Cambodia.

Apsara dancer in Phnom Penh

What is an Apsara dancer? 

An Apsara is a celestial creature of Mythology having an unearthly beauty, elegance, graceful and gifted art for dancing… She plays the role of mediator between heaven and earth, Gods and men. Thus Apsaras are dancing to the Gandharvas music in order to entertain and attract Gods but also the audience in the palaces.

The traditional Apsara dance of Cambodia has existed for a millennium and was already being performed in the famous temples of Angkor. Initially, the Apsaras’ performances were only reserved for the royal court. 

It’s only in the mid 20th century that this dance was introduced to the public during important events. Today we are lucky enough to be able to witness the Apsaras’ dance performances in some towns of Cambodia.

Old legends of ApsaraDetail of ancient painting depicting the legend of Apsara Mera, National Museum of Cambodia

Apsara’s dance, a tradition to preserve

The various arts of Cambodia have almost disappeared during the seizure of power by the Khmer Rouge. I’m not going to summarize the atrocities of the genocide that struck Cambodia in the 70. This is not the point. However, I'm strongly encouraging you to learn more about this subject if you want to understand Cambodia’s history.

The Khmer Rouge executed, largely, intellectuals and artists. We consider that only 10 per cent survived the genocide and therefore the Cambodian's cultural heritage has almost disappeared forever.

At the end of the Khmer Rouge’s regime, some artists returned to Cambodia for the purpose of passing on these lost arts. Thus the surviving dancers had the opportunity to transmit this tradition to a new generation of dancers.

Nevertheless, all this knowledge still remains underdeveloped and I hope that over the years they will be able to put down new roots in Cambodia.

Arts actors such as Arn CHORN-POND, genocide survivor and musician dedicate their time to maintain and teach the traditional arts.

For more information, please see Cambodian living Art