Khmer Dance

any classical  dance forms in Cambodia, of which  a highly stylized art form was one confined mainly to the courts of the royal palace and performed mainly by females. Known formally in Khmer as Robam Apsara.the dance of this classical for are often referred to as Apsara dance.
This dance form was first introduced to foreign countries and best known during the 1960s as the Khmer Royal Ballet. The first royal ballerina was Princess Norodom Bopha Devi, a daughter of Norodom Shihanouk.
The Apsara dance is particularly inspired by the style from around more than a thousand Apsara carvings in the Angkor temple complex. As evidenced in part by these Apsaras (celestial dancers), dance has been part of the Khmer culture for more than a millennium.
A visit to Cambodia is only complete when one has attended at least one such traditional dance performance.

Spectators
Welcome to the APSARA Dance
To pursue in the spirit of your visit to the temples we are happy to introduce you to another example of our rich cultural heritage: Traditional dancing.
40 dancers, singers and musicians will perform 3palatine and 2 village dances for you.
This guide will help you identify the dances and instruments from the traditional orchestra and understand the Apsaras’ gestures. The Apsaras are legendary characters from the Khmer Ramanaya.
We wish you a pleasant evening.

Khmer dancing
King Jayavarman II, educated in Java, is give credit for the origins of Khmer choreography.
In the 12th century, Indra descended on Earth and presented Jayavarman II with the kingdom of Cambodia, the mythical Apsaras, who revealed choreography to Khmer people.

Apsaras Ballet
This ballet was performed at offering ceremonies and palace celebrations in the Angkorian era.
The Apsaras, half- women half- goddesses, are heavenly dancers. Their circular movement and poised motions, the litheness of their gestures, symbolize their hovering between the cosmos and Earth.

Fishermen’s dance
This rural entertainment dance is a lesson of love and courtesy. It depicts, while exaggerating them, boys courting a shy and earnest young girl.

Mekhala dance
A metaphor for the victory of good over evil. Armed with a crystal ball casting rays of lightning, the goddess of waters Moni Mekhala triumphs over the deamon Ream Eysaur, whose axe creates thunder. The two characters illustrate the victory of beneficial rains over the dry and stormy season.

Coconut dance
This popular dance from south-eastern Cambodia is performed at wedding ceremonies. Highly rhythmical and punctuated with shouts and the rapping of coconuts, it expresses joy in life and harmony amongst Cambodians.

Begend of the Reamker
In this extract from the Khmer Ramayana, princess Neang Seda is held prisoner by the deamon Reap.  Her husband prince Preah Lak and Hanuman, chief of the white monkeys  A battle follows between Hanuman’s troops and those of the fearsome Reap…

The Reamker( Khmer Ramayana)
The Reamker is the Khmer version of the Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic from ancient India.
The tale is depicted on Angkor Wat bas-reliefs. The epic tells the life of Preah Ream, his exile from the throne, the abduction of his wife Neang Seda by Reap, the ensuing war and his reconquest of the throne.

Preah Ream (Rama in the Ramayana)
Preah Ream is the seventh incarnation perfection, might and kindness. He is destined to kill the deamon Reap.
Ousted from his father’s throne that should have been his by right, Preah Ream exiled himself into the wilderness with Neang Seda and Preah Lak.

Preah Lak (Bakshmana in the Ramayana)
Preah Lak, younger stepbrother of Preah Ream, is the incarnation of the snake Naga on which sleeps the protective god vishn.
His obedience and loyalty to his brother Preah Ream are exemplary. He follows him in all his achievements, and in particular in the war against the deamon Reap.

Reap ( Ravana in the Ramayana)
Reap, ten-headed king of the giants from the kingdom of Lanka, is a deamon, servant of destructive god Shiva. His sister Surpanakhar tried to seduce Preah Ream. Preah Lak punished her by shaving her head. In revenge, Surpanakhar fuelled Reap’s hatred for Preah Ream by making him fall in love with Neang Seda.

Neang Seda( Sita I the Ramayana)
Neang Seda, daughter of king Ayodhya nad promised to the one who could benh Shiva’s bow, thus became Preah Ream’s wife. Her beauty arouses Reap’s lust, who abducts her to his kingdom of Lanka. Freed by Preah Ream, she will accede to the throne of Ayodhya with her husband and give birth to twins.

Hanuman
Hanuman, white monkey and son of the god of the wind whose nimbleness and speed he inherited, became general of the monkeys’ army.
Said to be immortal, he is a brave, strong and intelligent vassal to Preah Ream. Together they fight Reap, kill him and deliver Neang Seda.

Basic gestures in the palatine dance
The repertory imposes a difficult apprenticeship on young students. First, daily exercises to stretch the articulation are required to achieve an extremely supple body. Then, students must master a very specific language based on numerous positions and codified gestures.

Symbolizes the stem
Kbach Sung Buc

Symbolizes the leaf
Kbach

Symbolizes the bud
Kbach Cheap

Symbolizes the flower in bloom
Kbach Coung

Symbolizes the fruit
The traditional Khmer orchestra, or Pinpeat
Traditional music still holds today an important place in Cambodia’ life. It is played at every celebration and ceremony, both in the countryside and the cities. The traditional orchestra called pinpeat recalls those of Thailand or Laos. It can number up to twenty musicians, with strong emphasis placed on percussions.

Samplhor and Skor Thom drums
The samphor, a two-skin horizontal drum, leads the orchestra. It gives the start, marks the pauses and sets the rhythm. The Samphor is supported by two Skor Thom, large oblique drums, and by Chhing, small bronze cymbals with a high pitch tone.

Kong Thom the circle of gongs
The Kong Thom is a melodic percussion. It is made of a series of bulb-shaped copper gongs placed horizontally on a rattan circular frame, inside which seats the player. The Kong Thom plays the min melody variations and embellishments.

Roneat Ek xylophone
The Roneat Ek xylophone is made of curved bamboo or teak strips placed stop a boat-shaped resonance chamber resting on a central leg.

Roneat Dek metalophone   
The Roneat Dek metalophone is made of bronze strips placed stop a straight 4-legged resonance chamber. It faithfully follow the lead of the Kong Thom.

Sralai oboe
The Sralai is the only wind instrument in the orchestra. It sets the pitch for the other instruments. Its quadruple reed and slightly pierced conical body are reminiscent of the western oboe. To be able to play without a pause, even to draw breath, the player must master continuous     breathing techniques.

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