Apsaras (meaning celestial dancer in Sanskrit) are celestial women, seen dancing across traditional artwork and temples in Cambodia – most notably, Angkor Wat. A Hindu story “The Churning of the Sea of Milk”, tells how Apsara (along with the goddess Lakshmi) were released from the water. Apsara dancing features Khmer women in Apsara outfits (gold headdress, accessories, long silk skirt, barefoot, often wearing fresh flowers), and they tell stories with their hands and feet. Girls are selected at a young age for their ability to bend their fingers back almost touching their arm. Each movement of their fingers has meaning. This dance, dating back to the 7th century, shows the blending of the religions of Cambodia, and its unique art history.
I attended a traditional dance show at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. This show featured Apsara dancing as well as other traditional dance forms from around the country!