- Agnes de Mille
Apsara dance is the commonly used term to describe the traditional Cambodian dance form that was previously practised in the royal palaces. "Khmer Classical Dance" or "Cambodian Court Dance" would probably be more accurate descriptions - Apsara is just one character portrayed by these highly skilled dancers.
Khmer dance is a highly stylised artform, in which (extremely flexible) dancers use a complex alphabet of hand and body positions to convey a story, similar to mime or ballet. Elaborate costumes are used, and most classical stories have no spoken or sung parts. There are approximately 100 dances and dramas that are classically used, and the artform was nearly extinguished during the Khmer Rouge years, but a resurgence (aided by the tourist industry) has seen new dances, and fusion performances of classical Khmer and foreign dances by some troupes.
Shows vary, but there are several popular hotels and restaurants with very good shows. For fine dining, the regular stage at La Residence d'Angkor is small, but private shows can be arranged, while Raffles has a highly rated show on its Apsara Terrace - prices as for the a la carte menu.
Shows are in the evening, and are typically one-two hours long. Schedules vary, with some veunes offering nightly shows, and some varying shows with season. Contact us, or speak to your guide - many restaurants do offer commissions, so your tuk-tuk driver's recommendation may not be entirely without prejudice!
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