Cambodia Travels: Buddha, Apsara & Hanuman pt. 3

Ever wonder what the different Khmer Dances were? I definitely learned something new!

The main event of the night was to go watch an Apsara Dance performance. I haven’t seen one in a while so I was excited to watch. I have to say, I have never before been so focused and interested in traditional Khmer dance before. There were 5 different acts and I loved every single one of them!

After our dinner and walk around town, we headed over to the Apsara Theatre, which was absolutely gorgeous. It was very a modern but traditional theatre with Khmer designs and a hint of European influence. It was clean, AC-ed and spacious. The ticket is $25 per person and it includes a set course meal (you don’t get to choose the course and everyone gets the same). Drinks are not included in that price. Although I didn’t make the reservation, I know that you have to call in advance to book a seat/table because a lot of tour groups are brought into the theater. Make sure to call in advance and book a spot! The doors open around 7pm and the performances start around 7:30-8pm.

The Apsara Theatre, cambodia, siem reap, dance

The Apsara Theatre

Apsara dance theatre, siem reap, cambodia

The program was available in English and French

Inside the theatre.

Inside the theatre. The design was beautiful.

The set course meal you get. Fish Amok, Spring Rolls, Chicken soup, White Rice, Fruits

The show is in five sections, which are the different styles and types of traditional Khmer dance.  Each had its own story and different characters. They are divided into: Apsaras Ballet, Fisherman’s Dance, Mekhala, Coconut Dance, Reamker

1) Apsara Ballet: This ballet was performed at offering ceremonies and palace celebrations in the Angkorian era. The Apsaras, half-women half-goddesses, are heavenly dancers. Their circular movements and poised motions, the litheness of their gestures, symbolise their hovering between the cosmos and Earth. (information from website)

This was the dance I have seen the most. It’s the one that pops into my head as soon as I hear ‘Khmer Dance.’ The costume is absolutely beautiful and the way the Apsara dancers move is so graceful and elegant.

2) Fisherman’s Dance: This rural entertainment dance is a lesson of love and courtesy. It depicts, while exagerating them, boys’ and girls’ attitudes to love and courtship. The dance shows a tenacious and mischievious boy courting a shy and earnest young girl. (information from website)

Definitely more playful, comical and fun. The main Fisherman character was so fun to watch and the flirting between the couple made the audience giggle. It is definitely more modern than the other dances and truly entertaining.

3) Mekhala: A metaphor for the victory of good over evil. Armed with a crystal ball casting rays of lightning, the goddess of waters Moni Mekhala triumphs over the deamon Ream Eysaur, whose axe creates thunder. The two characters illustrate the victory of beneficial rains over the dry and stormy season. (information from website)

Very mythical performance with mythical creatures. I loved the use of the crystal ball and incorporating it into the dance. The sound of thunder created using drums was exciting as well!

4) Coconut Dance: This popular dance from south-eastern Cambodia is performed at wedding ceremonies. Highly rhythmical and punctuated with shouts and the rapping of coconuts, it expresses joy in life and harmony amongst Cambodians. (information from website)

This is and always has been my favorite Khmer dance. I just love the beats and the sounds the clinking of the coconuts make while they incorporate it into movement and dance. The fact that sound and movement are moving together – no other musical instruments are needed and using voice to accompany the beats is just amazing and not to mention, exciting.

5) Reamker: In this extract from the Khmer Ramayana, princess Neang Seda is held prisonner by the deamon Reap. Her husband prince Preah Ream goes looking for her, escorted by his brother Preah Lak and Hanuman, chief of the white monkeys. A battle follows between Hanuman’s troops and those of the fearsome Reap. (information from website)

This myth is a Khmer version of a famous Hindi myth. I love it when female dancers play male characters because there is strength but with a feminine and delicate touch. The moves are extremely detailed and expressive.

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