Dance History Quiz | Apsara

Fun facts for teachers & students

What is apsara dance?

a.  A ’90s-era club dance that spun off from electronic dance music
b. A classical Cambodian dance inspired by Asian mythology
c.  A Portuguese social dance celebrating St. Anthony’s Day
d. A baroque-era dance performed at the French court

b. A classical Cambodian dance inspired by Asian mythology

Apsaras are nymphs that appear in many Asian myths. Cambodia’s Khmer people derived their name from the former hermit Kambu and the apsara Mera, a “celestial dancer” who married Kambu and founded the nation of the Khmer. Ancient Khmer courts staged dances in Mera’s honor, but the form nearly vanished in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge regime decimated much of the country’s culture and traditions. In recent years, however, the dance has been making a comeback in Cambodia, and performances are held at venues worldwide, ranging from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to Le Ballet Royal du Cambodge at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The dancers, wearing ornate costumes and headdresses, perform graceful gestures called kbach, which form a sort of alphabet representing elements from nature, such as fruit and flowers.

For more information:
 “Five Dancing Deities in Mythology,” Thought Co., Carly Silver, March 6, 2017

 “Apsara: The Cambodian Dance,” The Diplomat, Omar Havana, May 15, 2014