Posted By : Threeland Travel / Cambodia Travel Guide
Cambodia - the land of pagodas is an attractive destination for those who love to explore because it not only has majesty, breathtaking scenery but also has intangible cultural characteristics, especially cultural shows and performances.
Cambodia is under strong influences of religions imported from India, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. Throughout history, these religious thoughts dominated and strongly influenced all aspects of life, both materially and spiritually. From the world-famous magnificent architecture such as the Angkor complex - world cultural heritage to the architecture of houses, schools; from lullaby to traditional dances during major national festivals are full of a flavor of religion. For the Khmer, cultural shows and performances are a unique spiritual-cultural product that is both sacred and mental need after a hard-working day.
Here are the top 3 Cambodia cultural shows that you should not miss in your Cambodia tours as below.
1. Apsara Dance Performances (45 minutes performance)
Coming to Cambodia without being able to enjoy the Apsara dance performance once will be a shortcoming for any tourists to this pagoda country. Apsara is a traditional art dance in the royal court of Cambodia, recognized by UNESCO as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World.
You can attend a traditional Apsara dance performance in several venues in Siem Reap. Enjoy a hearty dinner and spot "fairies" dance in the traditional Apsara dance. Apsara captivates any visitor after enjoying this dance. Normally we called in Cambodia Apsara Dance performance but in the reality, this show is combined with:
Classical Dance: Classical dance is known for arched backs, feet, and hands. The dancers have a graceful appearance in traditional Khmer clothing. The dance moves are very slow, gentle, and graceful. Each movement in the Apsara dance has its own meaning. This is special that not everyone knows. For example, placing the arm across your chest means happiness; when the left hand is facing back, the right hand is clasped in front of the chest with 3 fingers pointing up, the index finger touches the thumb. This is the symbol of the Naga snake in Cham culture... It has played a vital role in the Khmer cultural heritage. Although Apsara dancing and other traditional Khmer dances were almost destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime, the ancient art form has been revealed thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Her Excellency Princess Bopha Devi and the increased interest of the government. It describes a particular ritual and is often inspired by rural scenes.
Folk Dance: The Folk Dance is performed during holidays celebrating the merits of gods and royalty. Folk dances are often performed are Good Harvest Dance and the Romantic Fishing Dance. Nowadays, some restaurants offer dinner either buffet or Set Menu with Apsara Dance shows. The pricing started from USD12 with local restaurants and USD20 with Set menu. Besides, a few hotels also offer this show as well. Each Apsara Dance shows lasts from 30 - 45 minutes
2. Shadow Puppet Theater (1hr)
The Khmer shadow puppet stage is a traditional Cambodian art form that dates back to pre-Angkorian times, with bas-reliefs from the 7th century. The cut-shapes of the puppets are made from cowhide. The puppeteer moves the cut- shapes and creates the illusion of moving images on the screen. A talented puppeteer can make figures appear to walk, talk, fight, dance, nod, and laugh,....
There are two main genres of Shadow Puppet Theater. Sbek Thom, depicting Reamker, and the other is the Sbek Toch, which uses smaller puppets and displays lots of stories.
Believed to have been born in Siem Reap, the shows were held outdoors, at night, and next to rice fields or pagodas. A large white curtain was hung between two tall bamboo frames in front of a large fire, or today a projector. The puppets' shadows were projected onto that backdrop.
Where to Watch the Performances
Tourists can watch shadow puppet performances in Sovannaphum Theatre in Phnom Penh. There is a series of shows with the participation of Sbek Thom and Sbek Thoch. It also hosts workshops offering visitors the chance to see how the puppets are made and how performances are put on. Unique performances are being held on Friday and Saturday at 7.30 pm. Here, tourists experience unique performances not only shadow puppets but classical Apsara dancing, folklore and mask dance, theatre, traditional music, circus as well. For more details, check out its Fanpage.
Bambu Stage in Siem Reap hosts its Bambu Puppet show every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Cambodian Living Arts also hold several shows throughout the year, put on by Wat Bo Shadow Puppet troupe. You can look for their variety of shows by visiting their website. The starting time of each place from 7 pm to 8 pm or from 8 pm to 9 pm and ticket price from USD15 to USD24 with show only.
3. Cambodian Phare Circus Show (1hr from 8-9 pm)
Cambodian Phare Circus Show is not only a circus but also a blend of comedy, music, music, dance, acrobatics, and more revolving around the themes: love, family life, discrimination, gender roles, and the consequences of war. Behind the aura on the stage are touching stories of artists coming up from difficulties. Many of them have deeply moving personal stories of abuse and hardship, they were used to be beggars, orphans, victims of trafficking, or drug addicts, but all share a strong will. Animal lovers will rejoice that there are no monkeys, tigers or elephants used in any of the performances.
There are two stories of this show always performed with different day follow the schedule of the week or the month:
In the Khmer language, “nourishment” cannot be expressed without the word “rice”. Cambodian life is associated with the rice field. They were born, raised, worked, and died in the rice fields. Rice is the main source of food, eaten in breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rice symbols the well off of Cambodia but also how Cambodia is exploited by the outside world. Prologue "White Gold" is everyone's respect for rice.
After damaging his father’s mandala accidentally, the leading character was thrown from his village into a world where rice becomes commerce and hard labor. As the community’s values turn into monetary interest, they find themselves plunged into competition, jealousy, greed, self-interest.
“White Gold” follows an individual and his community as they balance the demands of the modern world, community, and Buddhist teachings of moderation.
How far would someone go to fight back against rejection and bullying?
In a rural Cambodian village, a disfigured young man is rejected and ridiculed. He wonders why he is cursed and tries to find help from the Gods. Respond to his prayers, the Gods transform him into a beautiful woman with magical powers. With this new form, he appeals to the attention and desire of the men in the village. However, the villagers quickly aware of the sinister about the newcomer.
Eclipse is a story based on traditional Cambodian folktales of rejection, revenge, spirit possession, and eventual forgiveness set to original music and told through a dramatic mix of theater, Apsara dance, and modern circus arts.
The lowest seat ticket with show only start from USD18 up to highest seat cost USD38 per ticket and show always start from 8 pm and finish at 9 pm and also visitor must arrive 30 minutes before the show begins.
Cambodia is certainly a promising land for traditional art lovers. Let’s immerse yourself in the soft dances and stories of the Cambodian people and learn more about the long-lasting culture of this beautiful country. Do not hesitate to go, as the impression it brings will never disappoint you. If you are not so good at planning a schedule or find a venue for these activities, consult Threeland Travel to operate and tailor Cambodia tours for you. We are confident in designing you the best itinerary for your Cambodia cultural tours.