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Where Should Dance Go ?

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#46 sandik


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Posted 04 June 2014 - 08:26 PM

I'm always very touched by the enthusiasm he brings to this project, and thrilled by the wonderful response that he's had. 

#47 Kathleen O'Connell

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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 ... 


PS: for some full-lenghth Khon, go to this YouTube playlist. Or this one. This one has videos of more Chui Chai solos.


PPS: Here are two versions of Chui Chai Benyakai (she's a demon maiden taking on the guise of Rama's wife Sita. Long story ...) One. Two.

#48 Buddy


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Posted 08 June 2014 - 04:01 AM

Kathleen, thank you very much for your latest post of dance from Thailand. I hope to enjoy this as thoroughly as possible.
My first real interest in ‘beautiful’ dance was kindled about thirty years ago when I saw an excellent travel documentary about Burma. I would think that there are a lot of similarities. One segment showed a woman dancing in ‘classical’ style, which was as beautiful as I’ve ever seen. I’ve not viewed anything quite like it since. Her hands were so lovely. Her fingers weren’t quite as flexed backward as I’ve noticed in other Far East dancers. I would guess that they were also beautifully expressive and meaningful, which I like so much, and they were so wonderfully sculptured.
Sometime, would you care to give ‘Western’ dance a try ?
I find this comment about Ruth St. Denis, from the Amazon book description that sandik previously referred to, as being rather intriguing. Aside from her being very religious, which is perhaps another matter, there is a lot of other interest here.
“Ruth St. Denis (1878^-1968), called Miss Ruth by her students and admirers, is credited with creating modern dance in America, and, without question, inspired generations of dancers, including Martha Graham. A woman far ahead of her time, she challenged Victorian mores with her worship of beauty and the eloquence of the body and by dancing freely in revealing costumes to celebrate the sensual as well as the spiritual. Miss Ruth also wrote essays and poetry expressing, as editor Miller explains, her "philosophy of sacred dance, her belief in the role of women in peace-making, her innate love of the earth, and her ever-present connection to the divine.””
Also sandik’s description of her is quite interesting. She is possibly someone to note in any discussion that we might have about ‘Western’ dance.

"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."

#49 Buddy


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Posted 13 June 2014 - 09:32 AM

This is perhaps another case for a form of ballet related dance that wouldn’t require the physicality that ballet and other dance requires, but instead would focus on artistry. This video was posted in 2010, a year before Delphine Moussin had to retire from the Paris Opera Ballet because of its mandatory retirement age of 42. Her beautiful and continuing artistic development could possibly keep her dancing wonderfully for another ten years if another dance form existed for her.   

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