Cultural Dances of Cambodia

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7th street, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cultural Dances of Cambodia Siem Reap Reviews

joehobo joehobo
144 reviews
When the beautiful Apsaras bid me to take what I could that night. Feb 12, 2016
The evening had gone and the night was still young. I remembered a song sung by Bon Jovi with the opening lines “I am young enough to still see, the passionate boy I used to be, but I am old enough to say that I got a good look at the other side. I know we got to work real hard, maybe for the rest of our lives, but right now I just want to take what I can get tonight” and decided, that was exactly what I was going to do that night.

The Hotel in which I was staying had arranged a Cambodian cultural dance show for the night to go during supper and like a few other guests I too made my table reservation.

It was a cool soft breeze that was blowing across the terrace restaurant which had tables arranged to view a stage where the dance was to be performed. A small group of musicians sat beside the stage and began playing a slow song to a three string fiddle which was accompanied by a soft beat of hands on a barrel drum. A peculiar boat shaped three string fretted lute was plucked to the flow of a flute and the ringing of a Khmer bamboo xylophone. A free reed pipe added to the musical score. The master of ceremonies introduced us briefly about the Khmer cultural dance which consisted of classical, folk and social dance forms. He briefed us about the types of dresses worn by the performers under each category. He mentioned that every situation or occasion in life had been encoded in dance movements.

The dancers as well as danseuses wore elaborately decorated shining silk costumes, gold plated ornaments, and glittering jewelry, twinkled like stars as they danced bare footed to a variety of musical scores. The classical dance which is associated to the Kings royal court of yester years was slow paced with measured movements and poses. Coy, shy, enticing glances and the song mimed with expressions, cast radiance to the already pretty made up faces of the performers. The Apsaras dance or the dance of the heavenly woman was the highlight and the crowned danseuses with their deft moves, delighted the audience. The folk dance was fast and was one depicting two young men teasing pretty girls and the girls discouraging their advances. The social dance was strikingly funny. It was a musical drama, blended with a little slap stick comedy and was about everyday life in a family.

The costumes of all artists matched the dresses sculpted on stone, in the temples of Siem Reap. The Khmer dance is said to have more than 1500 intricate steps, movements and expressions. I guess we were entertained with may be just a few hundreds of it. However the dance ignited the evening and there was no shortage of entertainment. Every sequence or a rare pose which was sometimes naughty or erotic, amused the audience who applauded the young aspiring Cambodian dancers and danseuses. Although I could not understand the background score of the songs, I thoroughly enjoyed the dance drama as I could quickly identify the costumes, makeup, style and characteristics of the Khmer cultural dances with that of the south Indian dances forms such as Kuchupudi as well as the Mohini attam. It also had similarities with the other Indian dance styles, as well to musical instruments related with the Oddissi dance of Orrisa and Sattriya dance of Assam. I felt exhilarated to have witnessed the historically famous Khmer dance associated with the golden age of Cambodia.

The dance performance was an eye-opener to the culture of this glorious country and at the end of the show I therefore requested a picture of myself with the performers, which the artists happily obliged.

During dinner I was told that during the reign of King Jeyavarman VII in the eleventh to the twelfth century there were about 3000 dancers in the court of the King and I wondered about the golden times of song, dance and merriment that would have prevailed, in the everyday lives of the Khmer people. Sadly I also recollected the subsequent fact, about the fall of Angkor and how the dancers fled to Thailand. It is said that many were also taken prisoners to Thailand and Vietnam. It is believed though debated, that the close similarities in the Thai and Vietnamese dance movements were derived from the Cambodian source.

Thinking about the similarities of the Cambodian and Indian dances, my mind visualized a south Indian Tamil film of the year 1948 titled "Chandralekha" meaning "as beautiful as the ray of the moon," which had a song and dance sequence of more than a 100 danseuses in similar costume, dancing on Giant size drums. They danced to a frenzied tune before a king, soldiers and many thousand people. It was a dance in preparation to war. Could such a sequence ever have happened or was it mere imagination! Whatever it may be, it was an epic scene in the extravagant film of those days which is still spoken of and being taught in cinema schools even today.

Having dined fine, on good food and wine, the sensational costumes, poses, emoted feelings and dance movements expressed in the Cambodian dance performance, kept softly flirting around and rested its wings gently upon my mind, maybe, to stay forever. .

With my head on a soft pillow, I lay in bed wondering how enjoyable the world had been, with all that laughter, fun beside the frolic associated with the music, song and dance. I was happy that the art of Khmer dancing with its entire embodiment's, as sculpted in the glorious temples had survived centuries and lived longer than the reign of all mighty Kings and emperors put together. I realized that the beauty and peace conveyed through the art of dancing cannot be wiped out by wars, slavery or fear. I believed, that entertainment transcends beyond all barriers of language, religion or culture.

It was beyond midnight and it had peacefully progressed into the realm of dreams. I felt myself walking along the long corridors of Angor Watt watching the sculptures of the beautiful Apsaras, in all finery along with the musicians, come to life. They sang songs and danced before me. Maybe it was a dream, which I had wanted but which I may not get to see and listen again. But right now my eyelids shut tighter and I just wanted to take the best of what I could get out of it that night. Well,you guessed right,I slept tight that night. As of now you have to be content with reading the write up and if interested, try to be there for your turn. :)
8 / 8 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
aym19 says:
Very interesting read. Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience.
Posted on: Feb 22, 2016
Paulovic says:
Congrats on your featured review!
Posted on: Feb 15, 2016
Cho says:
I saw a similar cultural show in Siem Reap when I was there some years ago. It was a very good performance too. Thank you for re-kindling my memories and of course, CONGRATULATIONS for this featured review!
Posted on: Feb 14, 2016
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