Apsaras Dance Dinner Shows

Most dance performances in Siem Reap offer a mixture of Classical and Theatrical Folk dances. A few venues offer Shadow Theater. Many of the dance performances in Siem Reap consist of 4-6 individual dances, often opening with an Apsara Dance, followed by two other Classical dances and two or three Theatrical Folk dances. The Apsara Dance is a Classical dance inspired by the apsara carvings and sculptures of Angkor and developed in the late 1940s by Queen Sisowath Kossamak. Her grand daughter and protégé, Princess Bopha Devi, was the first star of the Apsara Dance. The central character of the dance, the apsara Mera, leads her coterie of apsaras through a flower garden where they partake of the beauty of the garden.

The movements of the dance are distinctly Classical yet, as the dance was developed for theatrical presentation, it is shorter and a bit more relaxed and flowing than most Classical dances, making it both an excellent example of the movements, manner and spirit of Classical dance and at the same time particularly accessible to a modern audience unaccustomed to the style and stories of Khmer dance-drama.

Phnom Penh is not as active as Siem Reap when it comes to Khmer performing arts. However, some of the performing arts schools in the city are open to the public during the day, allowing visitors the opportunity to observe dancers in training.

Among these, a must-see is the Sovanna Phum Art Association. Started in 1994 by a group of students, cultural shows are staged every Friday and Saturday night at 19:30. These include shadow puppet theatre, classical Apsara dancing and folk and mask dances. On sale at the gallery at the theatre are shadow puppets made from leather, musical instruments and more. Another fine theatre to visit is the Chatomuk Theatre at Sisowath Quay.