Friday, 2 July 2010
Lanna dance...dancing with the gods
The traditional performing arts are not as vibrant as they once were, suffering inroads by western entertainments and generally changing tastes, Thai dance drama is not extinct. What survives displays the elegance of an art form refined over centuries and supported by regal patronage.The Thais reputedly first acquired a dance troupe when, in AD 1431, they conquered the ancient Khmer capital of Angkor and took as part of their booty an entire corps de ballet. Dancers whose performances had once been seen as a symbolic link between nature, earth and the realm of the gods. Aside folk and regional dances (southern Thailand's Indian-influenced manohra dance, for example), the two major forms of Thai classical dance drama are khon and lakon nai. In the beginning both were exclusively court entertainments and it was not until much later that a popular style of dance theater, Likay, evolved as a diversion for the common folk who had no access to royal performancesCandle Dance • Typical of the Thai Kheun tribe, this dance is performed in honor of the Buddha. The female dancers pay homage to the divinities that protect the eight cardinal points of the Earth, asking them to pass through the candlelight in homage to the Buddha.
Dance of the Nantha-Peri and Pu-Che Drums • The nantha-peri is a drum characteristic of the northern region of Thailand, which is used for two purposes: to spur on warriors prior to battle and to pay homage to the Buddha in religious ceremonies. The pu-che, on the other hand, is a type of drum used by the tribes that live in the north: the Tay Yai, the Tai Lue and the Tay yan. It is used to accompany various dances including the sword dance, and the kai lai and king ka lai dances.
Sword Dance • This dance is inspired by an ancient martial art that requires tremendous courage and strength, and excellent reflexes. The dancers balance a number of swords on different parts of their bodies while fighting off their rival with a sword sheath.
Ka-Lai Dance • Beginners learn to execute graceful and balanced movements through the choreography of this dance
King-Ka-La Dance • The hand movements and steps of the female dancers, who wear spectacular fan-shaped costumes, evoke the movements of a bird.
The Sounds of the Mountains •The music that accompanies this dance is played on wind instruments characteristic of three tribes in the North of Thailand: the pi hom (a gourd pipe) of the Tai Lue, the pi joom of the Tay Yuan and the kan nam tao (a gourd flute) of the Li Saw.
Khan Dok Dance • The striking choreography of this dance of blessing expresses the calm, serene temperament of the northern peoples.
Choeng Tua Auk-son Dance • This dance, performed in the Buddha's honor, is characterized by a complex choreography inspired by the calligraphy of the ancient alphabets of the northern regions and by the movements used in martial arts.
The Sounds of Lanna, the Ancient Kingdom of the North • This music is played on two instruments typical of this region. The phin-phia is a stringed instrument whose body is made from a coconut shell. When he plays it, the musician rests the shell on his bare chest, then moves it or presses it to achieve the desired tonality. In the past, the phin-phia was the instrument used by youths to court the maidens of their village. Few musicians still play it. The sueng is stringed instrument, made of teak or hard wood. It is played by plucking the two metal or brass strings with a horn plectrum.