Apsaras Dance and Dinner Shows in Siem Reap

Siem Reap Attractions

The Apsaras Dance sometimes written as Apsara Dance is a classical Khmer performance art inspired by the water and cloud spirit of Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The Apsaras are a common feature of bas-reliefs on the walls of the Angkor temples near Siem Reap, shown in the same tight-fitting traditional dress, ornate headdress and gilded jewellery the modern dancers wear.

While the Apsaras Dance known locally as “Robam Tep Apsara” originates from the 6th-7th centuries, the shows you are likely to see in Siem Reap are actually quite a recent invention. The ballet-like performance was created by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia in the mid-20th century, with the graceful moves and postures inspired by those displayed on the walls of Angkor Wat and other ancient buildings in the area. In 2003, the dance was recognised by UNESCO as a ‘Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.

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Apsaras Dance Moves

The training for apsaras dancers is extremely intensive and must be started at an early age. The very first professional apsaras dancer was Princess Norodom Buppha Devi of the Cambodian Royal Family, who trained from the age of 5! There are at least 4,500 basic moves and gestures to learn, for one thing, as well as perfecting the rolling hip movements and the strenuous arm, leg and back curving postures.

The hand gestures of the dance are especially iconic, with the wrists and fingers curved back at extraordinary angles. Called “kbach” in Khmer, these gestures represent elements from nature, including flowers, leaves and fruits.

The dance is performed to lilting tunes played on traditional musical instruments, including the kong thom (a semi-circle of metal chimes on a wooden frame), rumana (drums) and the roneat thung (a fish-skeleton-shaped low-pitched xylophone). These are often accompanied by a falsetto choir of about a dozen singers.

Apsaras Dance Costume

The basis of the apsaras dancer’s dress is an intricately pleated sampot – effectively the same as a sarong. The headdress is the really important part, with the lead dancer’s crown traditionally having 5 points and 2 rows of disc-like decorations, matching the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat. Other dancers have only 3 points and 1 row of discs. Traditional accessories include various types of earrings, beads, bracelets and anklets. While the ancient dancers were traditionally bare-chested, the modern interpretation includes a simple top, often in either white or skin-tone, with an elaborate collar.

Several restaurants and hotels in Siem Reap present apsaras dance shows, and dinner shows are included in many tours. Most shows include the 4 genres of traditional Khmer dance: Apsara Dance, Masked Dance, Shadow Theatre and Folk Dance. These are abbreviated dances for tourists, and unfortunately, there is usually little or no explanation as to the origin and meaning of the dances. Regardless, they are still interesting and worthwhile to see.

Below are a few of the venues offering Apsara Dance.

Apsara Terrace

Apsara Terrace at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor serves pan-Asian cuisines in the alfresco settings of the luxury hotel's gardens. The restaurant regularly schedules buffet dinners alongside traditional Khmer dance and Khmer martial arts performances.

  • Opening Hours: April–September: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from 7pm onwards. October–March: Wednesday–Sunday from 7pm onwards
  • Location: Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, 1 Vithei, Charles De Gaulle, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Tel: +855 63 963 888
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Apsara Theatre & Restaurant

Apsara Theatre & Restaurant is part of the Angkor Village Hotel in Wat Bo Village. Step inside, and you'll find a lavish air-conditioned theatre setting with tables laid-out low before the stage where you can dine cross-legged on cushions. Khmer set menus are offered as traditional Khmer dance performances are presented on stage. Souvenir booklets are handed out to help you understand each delicate hand gesture and the backstories behind each elaborate performance.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 7.30pm onwards
  • Location: 52 Wat Bo Village Street, 17254, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Tel: +855 63 963 561
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Koulen Restaurant

Experience an enchanting night with unique local cuisine and a charming show of exotic Khmer cultural dancing. As you dine on a delicious Cambodian buffet dinner, be captivated by an Apsara dance performance.

Arrive at the Koulen theatre-restaurant and enjoy a feast of local delicacies, such as the classic amok Cambodian curry and Khmer barbecue meats, Read More...

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 7am to 10pm
  • Location: #5 Sivutha Street, Mondul 2 Village, Siem Reap 17252, Cambodia
  • Tel: +855 92 630 090
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