Apsara: Traditional Cambodian Dance

Imagine an aromatic Cambodia evening unravelling before your eyes. It enfolds as the sun dips low, cascading hues of a fiery sunset across an indigo velvet sky. Amidst the chorus of cicadas, there's one spectacle that forms the heart and soul of this fascinating land, embodying quintessential Cambodia— the mesmerising display of the traditional Apsara dance!

Often christened as the Robam Tep Apsara, which translates to the 'Dance of the Apsara Divinities', this ethereal experience was marvellously revived by the Cambodian Royal Ballet against all odds, following its near extinction during the tempestuous times of the Khmer Rouge regime.

At Rolling Grace, we believe in diving deeper into the essence of each destination, for in these subtleties, we encounter a world teeming with culture, history and captivating tales that resonate long after the journey ends. Join us as we step into the magical realm of Apsara dances, a veritable performance poetry, that crafts an indispensable part of the Cambodian tapestry.

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Apsara Dance of Cambodia
Apsara: Traditional Cambodian Dance

Apsara: Traditional Cambodian Dance

Khmer Apsara Dance

This traditional dance originated from the story of the union of the hermit Kampu and Apsara Mera. In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, Apsaras are supernatural female beings of the clouds and waters. They are said to be young and beautiful, and are adept dancers with the ability to change their shapes at will. 

The Apsara dance is performed by women gracefully dressed in close-fitting traditional costumes known as a Sampot Sarabap, which is constructed from rich silk brocade featuring intricate yet aesthetic details, along with a golden headdress. 

Apsara dance siem reap
An Apsara dancer dressed in a Sampot Sarabap and a golden headdress
apsara dance
Apsara: The Traditional Cambodian Dance

Origin of Apsara Dance

Apsara dance is an age-old tradition etched deep within Cambodia's vibrant cultural fabric. This ethereal dance form, as old as the temples of Angkor themselves, is said to have been birthed in the 7th century, inspired by the celestial Apsaras - divine nymphs of ancient Hindu mythology.

Fabled to entertain gods with their profound beauty and elegant moves, these divine damsels were chiselled into bas-reliefs adorning the Angkorian temples, only to leap off the stone walls and come alive in the form of the enchanting Apsara dance witnessed today.

The Khmer Rouge nearly razed this spectacular tradition to the ground in the late 20th century, but the resilient Cambodians with their unwavering spirit managed to resurrect it, keeping their heritage alive and invincible.
Apsara is performed by a group of young women in a flawlessly harmonized orientation. Every unhurried and deliberate movement is accentuated by a subtle bend in the knees with the heels elevated and lowered to the ground with each beat. A constant smile is attached to their faces, as they graciously flaunt their well-mastered elegance to awestruck audiences. The recurrent hand gestures throughout the performance give prominence to the dance, with each motion and shift denoting different parts of the story.

free apsara dance performance in siem reap
Beautiful Apsara dancers performing at dinner show

Apsara Dance Costumes

Crafted to mirror the heavenly beauty of the celestial nymphs portrayed in the ancient Hindu mythology, the Apsara ensemble is nothing short of magical. Adorned in vibrant, exquisite silk Sampots—traditional Cambodian garments—the dancers transform into divine damsels.

The intricate, golden headdresses crowned upon them, studded with forehead-spanning embellishments, imbue an air of majesty, while their hands, ornate with exotic, mystical rings, elegantly sway--an eloquence that narrates tales as old as time. Draped in a perfectly harmonised fanfare of jingling jewellery and flowing fabric, the Apsara dancers don't just don a costume; they embrace an art that speaks volumes of their rich heritage.

Apsara dance
Apsara dancers in intricate and colourful costumes

Best Apsara Dance in Siem Reap

Although there are occasional performances held in temples, a more convenient option would be to attend one of the nightly performances offered in restaurants. Pairing your dinner with this traditional dance will surely add zest to your gastronomic experience while traveling in Siem Reap. Remember to book ahead to secure the best seats!

Temple Balcony

Time: 19:30 (Daily)
Address: Street 08, Krong Siem Reap
Website | +855 12 234 565
Price: Free

Apsara Theatre

Time: 20:30 (Daily)
Address: Street 26, Krong Siem Reap
Website | +855 63 963 561
Price: $25 per adult/$12.50 per child

La Noria Hotel

Time: 19.30 (Wednesday & Sunday)
Address: River Rd, Krong Siem Reap
Website | +855 63 964 242
Price: $6 per person

Phare Cambodian Circus

Time: 20:00 (Daily)
Address: South of the intersection with Sok San Road
Website | +855 (0) 15 499 480

Apsara Terrace

Time: 19:45 (Monday, Wednesday & Friday)
Address: Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, 1 Vithei Charles De Gaulle
Website | +855 63 963 888
Price: $40 per adult/$25.50 per child

Kulen II Restaurant

Time: 19:30 (Daily)
Address: Sivatha Street, Siem Reap
+855 (0) 92 630 090
Price: $12 per adult/$6 per child (free for

Alliance Café

Time: 20:00 (Tuesday, Thursday & Satuday)
Address: Wat Damnak, 7 Makara Street
+855 63 760 169
Price: $20 per person (including set dinner)

Don't forget to share your travel & dining moments with us on Instagram by tagging @rollinggrace or #RollingGrace. Happy travelling!


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