After the somber day spent at the Killing Fields it was time for recharging and continuing our journey, both spiritually and physically. I couldn’t think of a better way to accomplish both than by watching (and for some) participating in a traditional dance of Cambodia called the “Aspara Dance.”
Background – This dance appears to date back to the 7th Century and it based on both Buddhist and Hindu mythologies. Asparas (“Celestial dancers”) were thought to be beautiful angels from heaven that came down to earth to entertain both Gods and Kings with their graceful dance. Remember the Hindu story of the “Churnings of the Ocean ?” It is said that these Asparas were born out of back and forth roiling of the ocean caused by the nine-headed snake Naga and they had great power over both mortal men and immortal gods – none could resist their charms.
During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, this dance was not performed, so seeing this dance on our last night in Cambodia, performed by children from a local orphanage carries much significance.
The Aspara dance is very intricate, necessitating great balance as well as flexibility to execute the delicate positions. Every movement has a specific meaning. In order to become a proficient Aspara dancer, children start training at a very young age and their limbs and particularly their fingers are put through strenuous stretching to enable the dancers’ fingers to bend nearly to their wrists. This reminds me of the pressure put on ballet dancers, gymnasts and other athletes to become ultra-flexible. It is tough and often painful work.
The results are simply breathtaking – the dancers practically float their way across the floor as the musicians play their haunting music. Of course their faces, as I have mentioned in previous posts, are simply exquisite, adding to the mystery and beauty:
The performers are children from a nearby orphanage. Again, I was totally taken in by their incredible inner and outer beauty:
Still photography does not do justice to the performances – but no worries – despite not having my usual videographer, Lenore – I nevertheless managed to take some video. Note the smiles on the dancers’ faces – they were obviously having as great a time as the audience:
These little “monkeys” were adorable – scampering around the sun deck playing with our feet before the dance began – truly in character:
Not only are these children graceful dancers, they are quite athletic:
The dance gets even faster:
After a bit of cajoling by the dancers and our guide Sokun, a few of us were convinced to give this dance a try with varying levels of success – Kudos to these brave souls:
We had a chance to talk with the dancers after their performance and they were all enchanting. Interestingly, only one or two wanted to be professional dancers – some looked to become teachers and doctors. I wish them all success, health and happiness.
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to our local guide Sokun as in the morning we were traveling onto our next destination, Vietnam. I have never liked this part of a journey – once I have met and got to know a person it is very hard for me to say farewell. So instead, Sokun and I exchanged social media monikers and I am happy to say we are still in contact today.
Oh my Buddha, Sokun!