Cambodian dance traditions have been traced back to carvings of celestial dancers, or apsaras, on 1000 year-old Angkorean temple reliefs. Although we know little about its meanings in ancient Cambodia, we do know that dances were performed as ritual offerings to the gods and ancestors. Cambodian dancers have long been linked to religious beliefs (most of the performances narrate stories from Hindu epic tales) and the monarchy (dance troops have been kept by Cambodian kings since the Angkor period). Dancers begin their training as early as ages seven or eight, and practice several hours each day. Training includes stretching exercises to increase flexibility and suppleness in the hands and feet, in order to create the codified gestures which are an integral part of the dance. The Royal Ballet almost disappeared under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, when almost all musicians and dancers were eliminated. After the fall of the regime, dance training reemerged and in recent years has begun to flourish once again.