You can’t escape them. They are the most conspicuous adornments in this classic masterpiece of ancient Khmer architecture that we know as Angkor Wat. Apsaras — that’s what they call them.
I would see three performances of these classical dancers over my two-week stay in Siem Reap last December. And boy, was I spellbound!
I reckon that those events were about as close to royal treatment as I was ever likely to find in this strangely familiar City of Siem Reap. And rightly so, I would later found out. My ever reliable mole, Wiki, told me that hundreds of years ago, Apsaras performed only in the pavilions of royal palaces.
And here’s the juicier part of the gossip (Wiki claims this information is still unverified, lol) — the Khmer Rouge regime conspired to hide their spellbinding grace and beauty from the rest of the world by hunting them down and putting many of them to death. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful and the Apsara dance has experienced a resurgence since then.
The Apsara dance is often compared to the European ballet, not only because both were traditionally performed before royalties but because dance training starts early so that the slow, flowing movements and elegantly curved hand gestures can be mastered while the body is still flexible.
Guess what? They have an adaptation of the Ramayana (Rama at Sita) too!
And here’s the best part: starting April 19, 2012, Cebu Pacific will operate a thrice weekly service to Siem Reap! Now, that’s one piece of good news! And while in this city to behold the grandeur of Angkor Wat, be sure to catch a glimpse of the Apsaras. They will surely take your breath away!