The Cultural Canvas of Dance

6/17/2020

“Dance is the song of the body. Either of joy or pain.” – Martha Graham

Thai Dance

Thai dance spectacle to behold that needs to be on every visitor’s “must-see” list. These dances are fluid, elegantly synchronized, highly choreographed and include movements that appear nearly impossible for most human bodies. These dances demand the head to be held high, the shoulders extended to their full width, the torso and waist kept erect, hands and fingers fully stretched and the chest—as if occupied from inhalation—proudly expanded. Thailand’s dances are a gateway into understanding the country’s rich past as a multitude of stories are told through these intensive movements. 

Thailand demarcates dances into two basic categories: “Classical Dance Drama” and “Folk Dance,” which is further distinguished by region. The classical dance derives from the royal courts of Old Siam during a time when dance symbolized the link between man and the gods. These dances were performed to entertain and satisfy royalty and their noble guests. Today, thankfully, these evocative classical dances are performed for more casual occasions but with the same reverence and attention to minutia detail. 

The folk dances are molded by Thailand’s diverse landscape and the activities associated with those variations. The central region is home to vibrant Bangkok. Born of this bustling city are dances like the Ram Wora Chet and the Ram Klong Yao or long drum. Female dancers dressed in fluorescent hued garments match their footwork and wrist movements to the men’s energetic beat of the drums. These dances reflect the pace of city life. In comparison, the Northeast is composed of expansive rice fields. The popular folk dance of this region is the Serng Kratip Khao, which celebrates the times of harvest and literally means bamboo cup.

Dances from the North and South regions equally speak to different lifestyles and experiences. For example, northern Thailand is a popular destination for wealthier families. It is not surprising that the dance that emerged from this region is Fawn Leb, or long nail dance. As representative, women wear 6-inch brass extension nails to convey beauty, elegance and composure indicative of the kingdom’s tenor of the times.

 

In contrast, the Southern dance traditions involve the Bird Goddess of Old Siam, Norah, where yoga-like postures and elaborate costumes mirror the wings and claws of a bird. This dance is performed at the weekly Sunset Ceremony at Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort.

Regardless of region, the splendor of experiencing Thai dance is one of our world’s wonders. 

 

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