Apsara Dance In Cambodia: History & The Best Places to See Tradition

By Katie May

Cambodia is a nation rich in history and culture, and the Apsara dance style of classical Cambodian ballet is highly regarded all around the nation. While seeing the countless brilliant dancers performing in shows around the nation now and in the etchings on the walls of old temples, one may detect evidence of this delicate kind of dancing. Here are some details on the history of Apsara dancing and the best places to see it. Let's read with Cambodia Immigration Services!

What is Apsara Cambodian culture?

Apsara is the symbol of the Khmer and the pride of Cambodia.

What is an Apsara?

Hindu mythology describes Apsaras as stunning feminine beings that come to Earth from heaven to wow both gods and monarchs with their mesmerizing dance. According to legend, the lovely creatures sprang from the churning of the Ocean of Milk, also known as Ko Samut Teuk Dos in Khmer or Samudra Manthan in Hindi. The narrative is shown on a 49-meter-long bas-relief carved into the Angkor Wat walls.

What is the Apsara dance?

Apsara dance, which dates back to the seventh century and is based on Hindu and Buddhist mythology in Cambodia. This is a famous traditional dance of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The sculptures in Sambor Prei Kuk temples in Kampong Thom province, where the ethereal creatures known as Apsaras have been immortalized in stone, provide evidence that the dance style dates back to the 7th century.

The classical dance style known as "Apsara Dance" was only ever performed in ancient times at the Royal Court and Palaces for ceremonial rites intended to please the gods and as sacrifices to them. It was performed under the Royal Patronage of the King. They truly form the foundation of Cambodian civilization. The dance exclusively starring the Apsaras celestial dancers was originally referred to as "Robam Apsara - Le Ballet des Apsaras" back in the early 1960s' "Golden Age" of the Royal Ballet, and the term was recently expanded to include the whole repertoire of the Royal Ballet in the 1990s after the conclusion of the war.

Hand movements are the dance's primary distinguishing features. There are more than 1,500 different motions, and each finger movement and arm posture has a unique significance that is connected to an old myth. To give you an idea, a dancer needs around 6 years to master all the hand movements, and it takes about 2 hours to demonstrate them all in succession.

 A traditional Apsara Khmer Cambodian dance depicting the ramayana epic

A traditional Apsara Khmer Cambodian dance depicting the Ramayana epic 

Where exactly are the images of Apsaras in Angkor Wat?

Devatas are stunning standing young goddesses dressed elegantly, whereas Apsaras are airy, graceful, and youthful creatures dancing in celestial palaces. Many of the Angkorian temples include beautiful carvings of Devata and Apsara figures in the sandstone. There are around 1500 of them in Angkor Wat, many of which are still wonderfully maintained even if some of them could not withstand the test of time and others were defiled (some of which may be seen in Preah Khan).

Due to the fact that they constantly seem different in either the harsh noon sunshine or the softer light of sunrise and sunset, apsaras and devatas make excellent photographic subjects. Photographers can experiment with the depth of focus to isolate one since they can be seen in groups or alone.

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Best places to see the traditional Apsara dance in Cambodia

The Apsara dance was included on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List in 2003. 

A visit to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without watching a performance of this unique and beautiful dance. If you happen to be in Cambodia, stop by any of these places for an unforgettable evening rich in tradition and beauty.

Wall carving with four women dancers apsara, famous Angkor Wat complex, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Wall carving with four women dancers Apsara, famous Angkor Wat complex, Siem Reap, Cambodia 

Siem Reap

Koulen Restaurant and Live Performance

  • Sivatha Street, Siem Reap
  • The concept here is a buffet dinner with a ballet performance, starting at 7:30 PM every night.
  • Adult tickets: USD 12, Children tickets older than age 3: USD 6

Angkor Village Apsara Theatre

  • Phum Traeng, Siem Reap
  • They have two venues at this location. One is an indoor theatre with a/c and the other is an outdoor garden.
  • Adult tickets: USD 25; Children tickets under age 12: USD 12.50

Raffles Hotel or Belmond La Residence d'Angkor

  • These two luxury hotels hold both group and private performances as well as opportunities for fine dining. Enquire with the hotel for pricing.

Phnom Penh

Cambodia Living Arts Theatre Show

  • The National Museum, Street 13, Phnom Penh
  • This organization works hard to preserve classic art forms in Cambodia by training the youth in music, dance, and singing.
  • The ticket price includes dinner for USD 15.

Sovanna Phum Arts Association

  • 166 Street 99, Phnom Penh
  • Another organization dedicated to reviving the Apsara and other traditional forms of heritage Khmer art.


  • 23 Street 348, Phnom Penh
  • If you want to try your hand at dancing the Apsara, join the traditional classes here taught by experts in classical Khmer dance. Group and private classes can be arranged.

5 interesting things about Aspasa Cambodia that you should not miss

1. What is Apsara Cambodian culture?

Apsaras were beautiful female creatures who descended from heaven to entertain Gods and Kings with their dance, according to Hindu mythology. Because the Apsara dance is extremely complex, Cambodian children (particularly girls) are trained from a young age to develop the flexibility necessary to execute intricate movements.

2. What did Apsaras wear?

The costumes for the apsara role are based on the devatas depicted on the Angkor Wat bas-reliefs. They are dressed in a sampot sarabap, a type of silk brocade with intricate pleating in the front.

Aspara Dancer in the Asian culture Traditional Concept 

Aspara Dancer in the Asian Culture Traditional Concept 

3. How many Apsara are there in Angkor Wat?

Over 1,500 Apsaras (celestial dancers) adorn the gallery's walls, providing endless visual and spiritual enchantment. All visitors are wowed by these graceful and beautiful females. They were created by the Ocean of Milk's Churning.

4. Why are Apsaras so beautiful?

Apsaras were originally thought to be water nymphs in the Vedas. They are extremely attractive and sensual, with the ability to entice, attract, and entertain. They were dance and music experts who entertained the court of Indra Puri, Lord Indra's heavenly kingdom.

5. Why is Apsara important?

Apsara dance, regarded as the most important aspect of traditional Cambodian classical dance, is still performed as part of sacred ceremonies and award presentations. Apsara dances, which are a huge part of Cambodia's national pride and heritage, frequently tell the stories depicted in the carvings of Angkor Wat.

Without seeing this distinctive and exquisite dance performed, a trip to Cambodia would be incomplete. Find out where the ideal venue is to watch an Apsara dance by contacting Cambodia Immigration Service to apply for an e-Visa for your cultural trip to the Kingdom of Temples and magnificent dances. Start your journey immediately!

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