A dark shadow loomed over Cambodia from 1975-79. The Khmer Rouge had taken over the country and their leaders sought to destroy all forms of culture and art. Dancing was prohibited, religion was banned and every school was closed, yet the spirit of preserving their own identity was preserved. Many performers were killed, but a small band of dancers managed to survive and is now making a comeback.
They are apsara.
Traditionally, apsara means the beautiful girls and they are said to be supernatural female beings. In modern time, the apsara dance is performed by both men and women.
While you’re at it, read my post about fun things to do in Siem Reap.
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THE NATIONAL PRIDE OF CAMBODIA
Apsara dancing is at the heart of classical Khmer dance and it goes back to the time of Suryavarman II (1113-1145), a Khmer king and the builder of Angkor Wat. The art was performed only for the royal ancestors, but it was spread throughout Cambodia and to Thailand after the Khmer Rouge regime.