Following the Apsara dance in Khmer culture, we would like to share with you our own experience of dinner and Apsara dance at Crystal Angkor Restaurant. Even though we are not often used to the combination of dinner of cultural dance, we have to admit that we totally loved it. After all, what could possibly top a night of nicely presented Khmer cuisine alongside with graceful royal dance?
In this post, we’d like to focus on the show instead of the food. Why? Because the food speaks itself. Just kidding, the reason is that Apsara dance requires some firsthand knowledge for travelers to not miss out the best parts and better appreciate this precious art form.
The show starts at 7.30 pm and ends around 8.30pm. At Crystal Angkor Restaurant, a typical performance contains 5 parts of Apsara dance with different symbolic meanings every night. Before the show begins, a leaflet will be handed out to you. In this, you can find all the information of the entire performance with the meanings behind. Spending some minutes to check this out is a very good warm up before the show.
And here comes the show.
1. The Blessing Dance
Featuring graceful movements, this dance is just a perfect opening performance for the full show. In Angkorian civilization, this dance was believed to give blessing to the King, or the Royal Kingdom in general. The female dancers usually go in a group of odd numbers (3,5 or 7) and wear Khmer costumes to represent the Devata (angel). They carry the golden goblets full of blossoms and gently toss them towards the guests as an act of giving blessings. This part did a wonderful job in infusing the royal and sacred atmosphere into the audience.
2. Coconut Shells Dance
The coconut dance is the one with the biggest number of artists, both female and male. This dance is normally performed during the Cambodian wedding ceremony and other festivals for cheering the atmosphere. All dancers will hold a pair of polished coconut shells. The way they rhythmically communicate with each other by coconut bowls, the smiles, shouts and movements are very gentle yet passionate. It supposedly symbolizes the delight and the harmony in Cambodian life.
3. Mekhala Dance
According to our Cambodian friend, this dance is the metaphor for the defeat of good over evil in general. There are two characters illustrating the victory of beneficial rains over the dry and stormy season. Armed with a crystal ball casting rays of lightning, the goddess of waters- Moni Mekhala triumphs over the demon- Ream Eysaur whose axe creates thunder. The female dancer is also the vedette of the night. She is always at the center of every part, however her pose and facial expressions here are our favorite of the night.
4. Pailin Peacock Dance
This performance is a legacy of ethnic groups from Pailin- a province at the west of Cambodia. This is probably the liveliest performance of all night. The costumes represent the vibrant colors of peacock’s wings and the movements implies a courting scene between a peacock and a peahen. The dance is believed to bring joy and prosperity to villagers, or to the nation in general. Hence it is often performed during New Year or rituals such as praying for rain during time of dryness.
5. Apsara Dance
Save the best for the last, here comes Apsara dance. Khmer people believed that Apsara is the goddess of dance and this dance is sometimes referred as “the heavenly dance”. At the most thriving stage of Angkorian era, the dance was performed at offering ceremonies and palace celebrations. In case you get too caught up in other details such as the costumes, the storylines and symbols in the 4 previous parts, here’s the chance to take a closer look at their classical hand movements. You’ll be amazed by the various forms of their hand gestures from the stem, the bud, the leaf to the flower in bloom… “Elegance” would be the best word to describe this dance. This is the best wrap up that anyone can ask for a wonderful night.