A motif which abounds throughout Angkor, these mysterious dancing beings are conduits between gods and mortals.
Borne of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk (as seen at the East Gallery, South Wing of Angkor Wat), Apsaras are celestial nymphs from which devatas (semi-deities) were derived, depicted in bas-reliefs around Angkor Archaeological Park standing with lotus blooms in hand. They provide the inspiration for the Khmer classical dance of today – including its distinctive costume – which UNESCO has proclaimed a masterpiece of World Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Popularly known as ‘apsara dance’, the art form was created under the guidance of Queen Kossamak Nearireath in the 1940s when she famously choreographed the first dance by training her grand daughter, Princess Norodom Bopha Devi to become the first Apsara dancer, in addition to being the premiere dancer in the Royal Ballet of Cambodia.
If you would like to see a Khmer Classical Dancing shows in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, see our Shows and Performances guide.