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Traditional Cambodian Dance Performance

Article by GVI


Posted: March 8, 2023

The sight and sound of a Cambodian traditional dance performance are sure to captivate and transport you to a world of cultural exploration. From the elaborate costumes and props to the skilful movements of the dancers, each Cambodian dance has its own unique story to tell.

Exploring the Cultural Significance of Cambodian Dances

Cambodian dances have a long history which is inextricably linked to the country’s culture and heritage. Traditionally, dances were used to express important life lessons, such as the importance of patience, humility and hard work. To this day, many dancers still perform traditional dances as a way of passing these moral values on to the next generation. Dances are also used to reenact historical events and honour local heroes, further cementing their place in Cambodian society.

In addition to their cultural significance, Cambodian dances are also a source of entertainment. Many of the dances are accompanied by traditional music, which is often played on instruments such as drums and gongs. The combination of music and dance creates a vibrant atmosphere that is enjoyed by both locals and tourists alike. Cambodian dances are also a great way to learn about the country’s history and culture, as they provide a unique insight into the lives of the Cambodian people.

The History and Evolution of Cambodian Dance

Cambodian dance has been around since ancient times, with evidence of its existence in carvings and artwork from as far back as the 7th century. Traditional dances were developed through centuries of cultural exchange, with contributions from India, China and even Thailand. During the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and 1980s, most dance performances were halted due to religious and political reasons. However, since the 1990s, there has been a renaissance in Cambodian dance, with many talented dancers reviving classic performances and creating new forms.

Today, Cambodian dance is a vibrant art form, with performances ranging from traditional classical dances to modern interpretations. It is a popular form of entertainment, with performances often taking place at festivals and special events. Cambodian dance is also used to tell stories, with dancers using their bodies to express emotions and convey messages. It is a powerful form of communication, and a beautiful way to experience Cambodian culture.

Understanding the Different Types of Cambodian Dance

There are many different types of Cambodian dance. The most popular and recognizable is the Robam Tep Apsara (or Apsara dance), which is performed mainly for religious ceremonies and festivals. Other popular forms include the RobamKorng Thmey (or Classical Dance), which is often used to portray legends and mythological stories; and the Yike, a contemporary form of performative art that combines elements of traditional Cambodian dance with modern movements.

Appreciating the Skill and Artistry of Cambodian Dancers

Cambodian dancers are incredibly talented and skilled, showing great poise and musicality in their performances. Each dancer needs to learn how to properly use their body language and facial expressions to portray different characters and emotions. Additionally, some performances require intricate choreography and complex hand movements that require many hours of practice. By appreciating the skill and artistry of Cambodian dancers, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in their world when watching a performance.

Aspara Dancer at Angkor Wat. Sepia toned.

Learning About the Costumes and Props Used in Traditional Performances

The costumes worn by Cambodian dancers often form an important part of the performance. Dancers will usually wear a Krama scarf to signify purity and modesty while using traditional props such as swords or fans to add colour and drama to their performance. Traditionally, the costumes can be very elaborate and detailed, handmade by local artisans using traditional fabrics and patterns. By learning more about the costumes and props used in Cambodian dance performances, you will be able to truly appreciate their stunning beauty.

Discovering the Music Behind Cambodian Dances

The music used in Cambodian dance performances is just as varied as the dances themselves. From the traditional Khmer Pinpeat instrumental ensemble music to more modern pop songs, there is something for everyone. Music is an integral part of any Cambodian performance, and it helps to create an uplifting atmosphere that encourages audience participation. By taking the time to discover more about the music used in Cambodian dance performances, you’ll be able to appreciate it even more when watching a live performance.

The Benefits of Watching a Traditional Dance Performance

Not only is Cambodian dance incredibly beautiful and mesmerizing to watch, it also has a multitude of benefits. The performance can help to strengthen cultural ties between different generations, while also providing an opportunity for non-native viewers to learn more about Cambodian culture. Watching a traditional dance performance can also have therapeutic benefits – it can help to reduce stress levels and lift your mood by exposing you to something new and uplifting. So make sure to take some time out of your schedule to enjoy a traditional Cambodian dance performance!

Where to See a Cambodian Dance Performance in Person

If you’re looking for a truly memorable experience, then witnessing a traditional Cambodian dance performance in person is the perfect way to do it. Many Cambodian towns host regular cultural performances throughout the year, such as rural performances during Phnom Penh’s Water Festival or more formal showcases by professional companies in top local theatres. Additionally, you can also find occasional performances hosted at well-known temples such as Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei. So keep an eye out for upcoming performances in your area – they’re sure to provide you with an exhilarating experience!

Travel to Cambodia with GVI

GVI runs community development programs for those travellers who want to make a positive impact in the places they visit. Our base is in Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat, and is the perfect place for ethical travellers wanting to experience the full cultural and historical landscape of Cambodia while at the same time contributing to the local community.


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