Dance – The Keeper of Impressive Art and Culture in Cambodia

Having an excursion to Cambodia, except for the famous Angkor, the charming dances can also give you the hard-to-forget impression. More details of this branch of art will be provided in the following post.

Three main types of dance which are recommended to see are classical dance, folk dance and vernacular dance. 

Classical dance

Belonging to Khmer traditional dance, the classical dance is at the top list of charming dances you can not miss watching. It is the oldest and most popular dance in Cambodia. The classical dance originated from royal court and only served royal court in the past. One of great examples of classical dance is Apsara dance, which you usually see its image on the wall of Khmer temples, especially on the wall of ancient Angkor Wat.

dance 1

If the carvings in these temples leave you deep impression of religious works, the Apsara dance performed by Cambodian dancers can give you more than that.The main religion of Khmer people is Hinduism, thus, in their mind apsaras were heavenly female nymphs who entertained God and King with their charming dance. Apsara dance is not merely a dance, but the story-tellers also. The performance of Apsara dance is prepared very carefully in terms of costume, music, stage and images. The traditional dancers will wear their traditional dress, the crown modeling Angkor image, four types of intricate wrist jewelry and the earring to make sure their appearance can partly support to transfer the meaning of the dance.

dance 4

It can be said that Apsara dance is one of the most elegant dances in the world. With the aim of depicting the ancient stories and themes the movement of the dance is really slow and flexible. Every move of fingers or feet can refer to particular meaning. For example, if the dancers shape the blossoming flower with their fingers, they want to perform the worshiping to the spirits of nature. Princess Bopha Devi – the daughter of King Norodom Sihanouk is one of outstanding Apsara dancer’s symbols in Cambodia. This type of dance seems to connect with the long history of the Kingdom of Wonder. It was almost disappeared when Cambodia was under control of Khmer Rouge. At that time, most of traditional Apsara dancers were killed and it seems that the charming dance would be never performed again. However, thanks to a few surviving dancers, the younger generation still can learn and develop the dance from their seniors.

dance 2

Folk dance

Created in 20th century, Folk dance can be seen as a kind of modern art. Unlike classical dance, the movements of folk dancers are faster and simpler. This kind of dance focuses on the life of people in the country. Thus, the dancers will wear the clothes of people they want to portray. They can be Chams, hill tribes, farmers and peasants. Like classical dance music plays an important role in the folk dance performance since music can make the performance more vivid and impressive. Folk dance itself concludes many types of dance performances specializing aspects of Cambodian’s life such as Trot Dance, Coconut dance, Robam Kngaok Pailin in which dancers portray the Kula people. Some folk dances also have theme of love, for example, fishing dance which refers to aspect of rural life and young love. 

dance 3

Vernacular dances

Vernacular dance is also known as social dance since it serves for social function and festival. It is the least formal of the three types. Social dance is easy to learn, it just has a few of movements and you just need to repeat them again along the music. Because of social feature, some of vernacular dances are affected by other social dances from the world such as Cha-cha, Bolero and Madison.

dance 5

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