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Apsara Dance Traditional Khmer Dancedrama: Bopha Devi

Updated on June 23, 2011

Apsara Dance or Robam Tep Apsara is one of two major forms of Khmer dance and incorporates parts of the other, much older, traditional or popular dance, which has its sources in animism and primitive magic. The Apsara Dance is particularly inspired by the style from around one thousand Apsara statues in Angkor Wat. The Apsara Dance is a Classical dance inspired by the apsara sculptures and carvings of Angkor and improved in the late 1940s by Queen Sisowath Kossamak. Her grand daughter and protégé, Princess Bopha Devi made up the first star of the Apsara Dance.

During the Angkorian era, dance performances were loved by kings and general people alike. Apsara dance is the normally applied term to describe the traditional Cambodian dance form that was previously practiced in the royal palaces. The performance is well known and beginning presented to international countries during the 1960s as The Khmer Royal Ballet along with Robam Tep Monorom. The first royal ballerina ever was Norodom Bopha Devi, a daughter of Norodom Sihanouk.


Now you will see numerous places with natural presents and performances in Siem Reap.  Apsara dance performances are commonly available in the evening with dinner at a local restaurant or hotel. Dinner serves at 6:00 or 7:00PM and dance performances follow at 7:30PM or 8:00PM, include four or five dances, lasting about fifty minutes to seventy minutes. Most dance performances in Siem Reap provide a mixture of Classical and Theatrical Folk dances. There are occasional dance performances at the temples but most visitors attend one of the nightly dinner performances at a local restaurant. Unlike Siem Reap, there are far fewer performance venues and there are no regularly scheduled dinner performances at restaurants in Phnom Penh. Some of the performing arts schools in Phnom Penh are also open to visitors during the day, letting visitors the chance to watch the dancers in training.


These days, the School of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh takes responsibility for training a new generation of dancers, who are chosen not only for aptitude and youth (they start as young as 7 years old), but for the flexibility and elegance of their hands. These young female children were trained initially at school away the palace, and eventually trained inside the palace, a system that remains in place today. Technical training is given in the morning and regular schooling takes place in the afternoon.


Nowadays kids selected for dance training are taught to practice hand exercise at an early age to loosen their joints. Dancers must be trained while the bones are still supple. Traditional dancing never gone out in Cambodia, different classical dance, which since the decline of Angkor was revived within the past century by Queen Kossomak and Princess Buppha Devi, who became one of many instructors of Apsara dance.


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    • Wendy S. Wilmoth profile image

      Wendy S. Wilmoth 

      7 years ago from Kansas

      Beautifully illustrated!

    • mega1 profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a beautiful hub - and you are sharing with us a beautiful tradition. I love it! Would love to see this dancing in person!


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