After having what can only be described as a splendid first day of sight seeing at Angkor, marveling the beautiful temples at various temples around the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage park, we just had to tick off another item on the must do list - Apsara dance !
Once we were done with the sunset at Bakheng, Sukkung was nice enough to drop us back at the hotel so that we could freshen up before taking us to a restaurant to watch an Apsara performance !
Apsara dances were once reserved for royalties only, and was so treasured that when the Thai defeated the Khmers in the 15th century, they didn't just take all the treasures - they even took a troupe of Apsara dancers back to Ayutthaya.
As a dance, it was nearly wiped out during the dark years of the Khmer Rouge rule, and was only revived when a princess from the royal family, who had learnt it, revived it - combining her own learnings with research into ancient texts and carvings.
It is only the last decade or so that Apsara dance has been reintroduced to the public. Nowadays, as tourists flock to Siem Reap, there are Apsara dances in many restaurants and dance halls.
We ended up in one such restaurant, which served buffet dinner (USD 12, not inclusive of drinks). The whole place was quite packed with tourists, and served a very international fare - western, Thai, Viet and Cambodian food were all available.
And as you might imagine, there were a host of filler dances before we even got to the Apsara dance. A few filler dances, some of which bear a striking resemblance to Thai dances, filled the time before the main draw appeared on stage.
Apsara dance is graceful, and I'm very glad I managed to watch it. I'm not sure if this is the best performance there is of the art form, but it was full of graceful movements, with subtle hand and body gestures played out to communicate the story line (of course, we understood very little of it).
The costumes were brilliant as well, and I can well understand now why bas reliefs of Apsaras fill the walls of many temples !
I'll let photos do the talking here :)
Elaborate costumes ...
That's the principle dancer ...
This is how court entertainment was like back in the old days ...
Dancers striking a pose in unison !
This is the most famous Apsara pose, but I have no idea what it means ...
And finally, a look at the costumes from the back !
Next up - a grand circuitry of temples !