July 25, 2014

1160 CAMBODIA (Siem Reap) - Traditional Apsara dancer

Apsaras are female spirits of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, assimilated to some extent with nymphs from european mythology. They are youthful and elegant, and superb in the art of dancing, being associated with fertility rites. They are often the wives of the Gandharvas, the court musicians of Indra. They dance to the music made by the Gandharvas, usually in the palaces of the gods, entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men. They are said to be able to change their shape at will, and rule over the fortunes of gaming and gambling. Apsaras represent an important motif in the stone bas-reliefs of the Angkorian temples in Cambodia, about which I wrote here.

The Royal Ballet of Cambodia, a form of performing arts established in the royal courts of Cambodia for the purpose of entertainment as well as ceremonial propitiation, is frequently called Apsara Dance. Performances entails elaborately dressed dancers performing a slow and figurative set of gestures and poses meant to entrance the viewer. The repertoire includes dances of tribute or invocation and the enactment of traditional stories and epic poems such as the Ramayana. Dancers don't sing or generally speak except for some dance dramas where there are brief instances of speech by the dancers. Hand gestures, called kbach (meaning style), form a sort of alphabet and represent various things from nature such as fruit, flowers, and leaves. They are used in different combinations and transitions with accompanying movement of the legs and feet, to convey different thoughts and concepts. Four main types of roles exist in Apsara dance: neay rong (male), neang (female), yeak (ogres or asuras), and the sva (monkeys).

The typical neang costume consists of a sampot sarabap (or charabap), a type of woven fabric with two contrasting silk threads along with a metallic thread (gold or silver in color). The sampot is wrapped around the lower body in a sarong-like fashion, then pleated into a band in the front and secured with a gold or brass belt. In the current style, part of the pleated brocade band hangs over the belt on the left side of the belt buckle. Worn over the left shoulder is a shawl-like garment called a sbai (also known as the robang khnang, literally 'back cover'), the most decorative part of the costume, embroidered extensively with tiny beads and sequins. The usual embroidery pattern for the sbai is a diamond-shaped floral pattern. Under the sbai is a silk undershirt or bodice worn with a short sleeve exposed on the left arm. Around the neck is an embroidered collar called a srang kar. Jewelry includes a large, filigree square pendant of which is hung by the corner, various types of ankle and wrists bracelets and bangles, an armlet on the right arm, and body chains of various styles.

About the stamp
The stamp is part of a series of four, Khmer Culture III - Temples, issued in 2013.

Apsara - Wikipedia
Royal Ballet of Cambodia - Wikipedia

Sender: Hanna Chen
sent from Siem Reap (Cambodia), on 06.07.2014
photo: Kraig Lieb

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