An Apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. English translations of the word “Apsara” include “nymph,” “celestial nymph,” and “celestial maiden.” On the other hand Robam Tep Apsara which literally means “Dance of the Apsara Divinities” is the title of a Khmer classical dance created by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia in the mid-20th century under the patronage of Queen Sisowath Kossomak. The apsara is played by a woman, sewn into tight-fitting traditional dress, whose graceful, sinuous gestures are codified to narrate classical myths or religious stories.
Last week, I got a chance to see an apsara dance performed by a local theater group in Phnom Penh. Unlike western dances, the apsara dance is very slow and refined. It focuses more on the grace and subtlety of every movement of the fingers and the body, simulating angels floating on the sky. Here are some photos from the performance.
N.B. There’s also a photo of the Hanuman, which is the central character in Hindu epic the Ramayana and also present in most of the Khmer Mythology