the Minister of Culture, is a master of Apsar dancing, which dates to the 1st century. The graceful movements of At the heart of classical form is the Apsara, the joyful, almost wanton dancer whose images are everywhere. Princess Buppha Devi, who currently serves as the Minister of Culture, is a master of Apsar dancing, which dates to the 1st century. The graceful movements of the Apsara dancers, adorned with gold headdresses and silken tunics and skirts, are carved on the walls of many of the temples at Angkor. Estimates are that there were 3,000 Apsara dancers in the 12th century court of King Jayavarman VII.
Over the centuries Khmer dancing lent its influence to the classical ballet of neighboring countries, and some of its postures and movements are similar to other Southeast Asian dance forms. But according to Princess Buppha Devi, "The Khmer kingdom started its traditions in the 8th century, 500 years before Thailand." In 1400, with the sacking of the Angkor Empire, the Apsara dancers were seized and taken to Thailand. Apsara dancing is one of two elements of classical ballet, the other being "today" dancing, the depiction of early myths. Many of the dances involve performing a fragment of the Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic that is one and a half times as long as the Odyssey. Others are based on the legendary battles and mythical sagas carved in bas relief on the walls of the temples of Angkor-including the Churning of the Sea of Milk, the great battle between gods and demons for the holy liquid that gives immortality. There are 100 dances and dramas.