Political struggles in present-day Thailand are radically different from the past, and the dance dramas that depict these struggles have also changed.
The Ramakien is the Thai version of the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana.
A modernized version of the Ramakien that deals with Thailand's present day political crisis has been slowly taking form in the mind of choreographer of Thai classical dance Pichet Klunchun.
Today's article describes the dance piece in eloquent detail with many new useful vocabulary words for describing motion.
The following is an extract withnout the many questions that the original poses. Read the original article here.
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Changes in a contemporary world by Vidura Amranand
Pichet Klunchun has created and performed many different versions of his latest work, Chui Chai, altering it according to the performance location...
...Chui Chai, which means transformation, is an episode in the Ramakien epic where the demon king Totsakan attempts to end the war by fooling Rama into thinking that his wife Sita is dead. To do this he makes his niece Benyakai transform into Sita. Klunchun entwined this plot with his own views about Thailand's contemporary social and political struggles using seven dancers, including himself .
Against the backdrop of a Thai flag with a missing red stripe, the first scene revealed Totsakan conversing with a reluctant Benyakai. This opening scene maintained the classical form of khon, with the plot and emotions presented through song and dance. The dancers wore jeans or sweatpants with T-shirts in solid yellow, red and navy blue colours.
This traditional display of classical dance faded away and a video showed Thai people being interviewed on the streets about their knowledge of Sita. Surprisingly, several people were not sure of her identity.
Many imagined the character as a white-skinned runaway beauty who, in present day Thailand, would likely end up as a coyote dancer or involved in a profession that required her to sell her sexuality.
A few stated that Sita wouldn't need to work because her beauty could easily land her a rich husband. These amusing and sometimes frustrating interviews revealed a group of people who lacked simple knowledge of the classic story yet maintained conservative views concerning gender relations and the female body in Thai society.
A transformation duet between Benyakai and Klunchun followed. This meticulously choreographed and beautifully danced moment was my favourite part of the piece. Standing face to face, the two mirrored each other's slow, calculated steps. Several times, they drifted close to each other only to pull back into their individual circular spaces. Eventually, their circles merged and arms intertwined.
As if Benyakai had completed transforming herself into Klunchun's form, she swiftly exited, leaving him balancing on one leg.
While the images of traditional Thai architecture behind him began to change into those of today's crowded high-rise buildings, Klunchun emphasized the struggle to maintain his balance by teetering further and further away from centre.
Eventually, as if transformed, he returned to even ground and strutted away on tiptoe, wrists resting on his swaying hips.
The connection that this stereotypical feminine posture has to the rest of the piece is weak; no doubt it reflects the interviewees' overtly sexual image of a contemporary Sita, but what does Klunchun's mocking portrayal of her suggest? Is he criticising women's increasing comfort with their sexuality in Thai society? If so, what exactly does Klunchun think are the issues concerning contemporary Thai female bodies.
The scenes that followed were much clearer. Five classical dancers and one contemporary dancer travelled back and forth across the stage attempting to imitate each other's lines. As they spiralled towards the end of the piece, the performers engaged in an exhausting food fight where they ended up throwing tomatoes and watermelons at the national flag. After reuniting in a hand-held line and putting on plastic faces of love and happiness, they tumbled down into long, senseless wrestling matches, paralysed by the knots they had created themselves...
(Source: Bangkok Post, Music Review, Changes in a contemporary world, 20/10/2010, Vidura Amranand, link)
Ramakien - the Thai version of the Ramayana (See Wikipedia)
epic - a long story telling of great events (for example the Ramakien or the movie Suriyothai; See Wikipedia on epic poetry, epic fantasy, epic films, and epic games)
Ramayana - one of the two famous ancient Indian epics, the other being the Mahabharata (See Wikipedia on the Ramayana)
choreography (verb) - the art of creating dances, "the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified" (See Wikipedia)
choreograph (verb) - to make a dance
choreographed (adjective) - created as a dance
classical - of recognized authority or excellence because it came from the most highly developed stage of an earlier civilisation and its culture, examples: classical literature, classical architecture, in the West refers to the Greek and Roman eras
Thai classical dance - the style of Thai dance that goes back to the Ayutthaya period, the most famous of which is the Ramakien (Read New York Times article)
eloquent - saying and expressing what you mean using clear, precise and easy to understand words
adapted - changed to fit or match a new situation
radically different - very very different, different in a very big way
struggle - a long lasting fight or conflict between two side to gain dominance การต่อสู้, การแข่งขัน
depict - describe something using words and pictures พรรณนา, บรรยายให้เห็นภาพ, วาดภาพ
portray - same as "depict"
altering - changing เปลี่ยนแปลง
performance - how well or badly something works (or whether an investment provides a reasonable return)
transform (verb) - to change from one form into another เปลี่ยนไปสู่อีกสิ่งหนึ่ง
transformation (noun) - a change
episode - one of the single parts into which a story is divided, especially when it is broadcast on the television or radio ตอน
demon - an evil spirit ปีศาจ
Totsakan - known as "Ravana" in the Sanskrit Ramayana, Rama's demon enemy (See Wikipedia on Ravana)
Rama - the hero and main character of the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana (See Wikipedia)
Sita - the wife of Rama kidnapped by Ravana in the Ramayana (See Wikipedia)
entwined - two things wrapped (curled, twisted) around each other,
plot - the series of related events that make up a story and the way the action rises to a peak (climax) and declines to and end (denouement) (See Wikipedia)
struggles - experiences difficulty and makes a very great effort in order to do something ดิ้นรน
backdrop - everything that you can see behind the main thing that you are looking at ฉากหลัง ภาพเบื้องหลัง
flag - to mark something so that you will be able to find it again
scene - all the furniture and building on stage for a play or for a movie to make it look like a real place ฉากบนเวที
revealed - made known or showed somthing that was surprising or that was previously secret เปิดเผย
conversing - talking with, having a conversation with
reluctant - do not want to do something, not willing (so are slow, hesitate, or do without enthusiasm) ไม่เต็มใจ, ลังเลใจ
maintained - kept at the same level (not allowed to increase or decrease)
khon - "Khon distinguishes itself from other forms of performances by the elaborate masks worn by leading performers, except for human and divine characters, who instead wear headdresses to indicate their ranks. The masks indicate the characters’ personalities and titles - be they simians, demons, garudhas or other great mystical beasts. Highly influenced by the art of traditional Thai sword and baton fighting, known in Thai as “krabi krabong”, stylized acrobatic elements are commonly found" โขน (Source: MIT students, also see You Tube video example: Hunt for the Golden Stag).
traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time
identity - who someone is
imagine (verb) - to form a creative picture in your mind of what you think something might be like จินตนาการ
runaway - a young person who runs away from their family after having some problem or argument with them ผู้หลบหนีจากบ้าน
coyote dancer - a woman who dances at a bar and earns money for the bar when customers buy her drinks (Supposedly based on the film Coyote Ugly which in turn was based on the Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York)
profession - job (usually means a highly skilled job requiring special training)
sexuality (noun) - things related to sex (activities, thoughts, attitudes) เรื่องทางเพศ
profession - a type of job requiring advanced training and education
land - to get or achieve something good, especially in a way which seems easy or unexpected ได้รับ
rich - interesting, with a lot of different qualities, experiences or events อุดมไปด้วย
amusing - funny and entertainment
frustrating - making you feel annoyed and impatient ทำให้โกรธ ทำให้ข้องใจ
interviews - asking a person a series of questions to get information (for example: to decide whether to hire them (job interview) or to publish an article about them)
simple - easy to understand; not complicated ง่าย,ไม่ยุ่งยาก, ไม่ซับซ้อน
conservative - cautious, doesn't want to experiment, not willing to try new ideas
gender - the fact of being either male or female, the biological and social differences between male, female and the trans-sexual เพศ (See Wikipedia)
female - of a woman สำหรับผู้หญิง
duet - involving two people doing some activity (dancing, playing music, etc...)
meticulously - in a very thorough way and with careful attention to detail อย่างพิถีพิถัน
moment - a very short period of time; a particular time or occasionชั่วขณะ, โอกาสสำคัญ
favourite - the one that you like the most สิ่งที่ชอบมากที่สุด
calculated - done in a special way to have a special effect, done deliberately for a special effect
calculated steps - walking very carefully (for an effect)
individual - relating to or involving a single, separate person or thing แต่ละบุคคล
arms - weapons อาวุธ
merged - joining together
intertwined - joined together as if tied together with "twine" or cord or string
transform - change
swiftly - happening quickly อย่างรวดเร็ว โดยด่วน
architecture - the activity of designing and constructing buildings, houses, and other structures (See Wikipedia) สถาปัตยกรรม
maintain - to keep รักษา
teeter- shake, about to lose balance and fall over เดินโซเซ, เดินด้วยจังหวะก้าวที่ไม่มั่นคง,
transformed - changed
even ground - a place where the ground is flat (without rises, valleys or bumps)
strut - walk with great strength and confidence เดินวางท่า, เดินวางมาด, เดินเชิด
tiptoe - walk tiptoe, walk quietly on your toes (so that you do not disturb or wake someone up) เดินด้วยปลายเท้า, เดินย่อง
sway - move your body back and forth
hips - the area below the waist and above the legs at either side of the body, or the joints which connect the legs to the upper part of the body ตะโพก
stage - an elevated area where people (actors, musicians) perform or people give a speech
imitate - to copy the speech of someone or something เลียนแบบ
engaged - actively involved in what you are doing
exhaust - deplete or use up all your energy, wear out ใช้หมด, ทำให้หมดแรง, ทำให้หมดกำลัง, ทำให้เหนื่อยอ่อน
food fight - when kids at school suddenly start throwing food at each other, "a form of chaotic collective behavior, in which food is thrown at others in the manner of projectiles. These projectiles are not made to harm or damage others, but to simply ignite a fight filled with spontaneous food throwing. Food fights may be impromptu examples of rebellion or violence, however, they can also be planned events." (See Wikipedia)
unite - come together in one place, join together ทำให้รวมกัน
reunite - join together again (after separating) ทำให้รวมกันใหม่
line - position; a way of dealing with or thinking about something or someone
tumble - fall down to the ground (usually with body rolling over several times as you fall) ล้ม, also: หกคะเมน, ตีลังกา, กลิ้งไปมา
senseless - happening without reason, meaning or purpose ซึ่งไม่มีความหมาย, ซึ่งไม่มีความเหตุผล
wrestle - grapple มวยปล้ำ, การต่อสู้ดิ้น, ต่อสู้กันอุตลุด, ฟัด
match - a sports competition (example: a soccer match, a tennis match) การแข่งขัน
paralysed - unable to move เป็นอัมพาต
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