I'm always very touched by the enthusiasm he brings to this project, and thrilled by the wonderful response that he's had.
Where Should Dance Go ?
Posted 05 June 2014 - 07:39 AM
My next entry in enchanting not-ballet.
Thai Khon dance — a court style dramatizing episodes from the Thai version of the Ramayana — is pretty darn enchanting. But Thai choreographer Pichet Klunchun’s stripped-down version of Khon can be as beguiling as the original, if not more so. (And let me stress the “can”; some of Klunchun’s stuff is pointedly unlovely and disruptive. He reminds me of William Forsythe in any number of ways.)
First, some samples of full-dress Khon.
This is a performance of a famous solo, “Chui Chai Phram.” The webpage where the video has been posted will give you a synopsis of the story. (Apparently this solo was originally performed by a male dancer; eventually it became the province of female dancers, but here it is once again performed by a man.)
Here’s a little primer on “Chui Chai” solos generally, taken from a journal article by Paritta Chalermpow Koanantakool (On line here: Life History of Chui Chai Phram: How a Siamese Dance is Remembered or Forgotten. In: Aséanie 12, 2003. pp. 105-122.)
Chui Chai Phram is one among many Chui Chai dances in Thai dramatic and dance repertoire. In general the word chui chai is an adverb following the word doen (to walk), meaning a style of strolling, or gait, that celebrates the grace and attractiveness of the walker — a narcissistic type of expression, so to speak.
Chui Chai dances in these stories elaborate episodes of transfiguration, the transformation of one person to assume the appearance of another. In these stories, certain characters who are embodiments of divine or magical power, or assisted by divine intervention, or given a body mask, transform themselves into other characters, usually more beautiful and more attractive than before. After the transformation, the character performs a Chui Chai dance to mark the successful disguise and celebrate the new, more adorned self.
The purpose of the transfiguration is often to deceive enemies, or to lure, attract, or persuade others to change their earlier intention.
Here’s some more on Chui Chai from Pichet Klunchun’s website.
Now, here’s some Klunchun:
A solo from Pichet Klunchun and Myself by Jerome Bel, presented at Dance Theater Workshop in 2007. Note that it’s performed in silence.
An all-too-short clip of Klunchun dancing a duet with a member of his company. She wears a Khon costume, he doesn’t. I saw them do this a few years ago as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. It was stunning.
Klunchun dancing a site-specific solo on Middelgrundsfortet, a sea-fortress that protects Copenhagen harbor. As you may have figured out by now, Klunchun makes an art of super slo-mo. Check out this clip of a company rehearsal: if we can trust Google Translate, this is something they do when it’s really, really hot.
An extract from a group work that looks to be a re-imagining of a battle scene from the Ramayana.
Finally, some of the unlovely stuff. I’m guessing you had to be there. Clearly the man has powerful feelings about contemporary Thai culture. Here's lovely and unlovely bundled together in Ganesh, which I gather is a three-part work spread out over three separate venues. K-Pop shows up at the end ...
Posted 08 June 2014 - 04:01 AM
"St Denis was one of the foundational generation of American modern dance, but her work generally used dance material from other cultures (both actual and speculative) to create works that were often described as "exotic." Some of her choreography was more abstract (less narrative or figurative), especially the work she did in music visualization, but her most influential choreography was primarily narrative and character-based, creating a simulacrum of ethnic dances. In a way, her work created the same kind of fascination with "the other" in the US that Diaghilev's ensemble had in Europe.
Although she had some training in ballet, any actual resemblance was more coincidental than intentional.
(She and her husband Ted Shawn choreographed the dance sequences in Cecil deMille's Intolerance, and performed in the big temple scene)
Suzanne Shelton's biography "Divine Dancer" is a very readable work."
Posted 13 June 2014 - 09:32 AM
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