Thailand dance in all sorts of forms, whether classical dance or folk dance looks back on a long tradition in Thailand. Traditional dance is taken quite serious in Thailand and it continues to be taught by professional teachers and in classical dance schools. Students from an early age, along with professional dance troupes continue to foster the culture of dance across each of the regions of Thailand.
The performers of the dance troupes are choreographed to the highest standards incorporating music, costume and sets which have been refined over centuries for this form of story telling. The dances themselves are an expression of the joy and celebration of life itself.
ORIGINS OF THAI DANCE
Sculptured images of ancient gods dancing (including the god Shiva) can be seen adorning many of Thailand's most ancient buildings and structures (including the entrance to the Prasat Phanom Rung, see image below).
This is not surprising since the performing arts in this country have been shaped by both Buddhism and Hinduism. In Hindu iconography the divine mythic Shiva is 'King of the Dance'. He is often represented in the comic dance as embodying both wanton destructiveness and creative new beginnings in the eternal cycle of waxing and waning. His dance is a catalyst as it were, for the destruction of a period of time and the creation of a new universe.
Thailand dance is also influenced by the region of Thailand that it was developed or originated. For example, in the central region of Thailand you will find the Sri Nuan dance and the Teut-Teung dance; in the northeast region there is the Seg Kratip Khoa dance and the Fon Phu Thai dance; in the northern region they practice the Fon Sao Mai dance and the Ka-Lai dance; in southern Thailand they have the Nora Tua Oon dance and the Ram taeng Kae dance.
THAI FOLK DANCE
However, among the best known Thai folk dances is Fawn Thai which dance is accompanied by folk music from the northern region. Such dances include the Fawn Leb or Fingernail dance (which originated in Chiang Mai), the Fawn Tian or Candle dance and Bamboo Cane dances.
The female performer of the Fingernail dance wears long thimble-like extensions of her fingers made of silver or gilt cardboard that taper to a point. Each finger and hand gesture is invested with meaning.
In the Candle dance, lit candles are held instead of the thimble-like structures. In the Bamboo Cane dance, eight male dancers in pairs beat long bamboo canes together in time with the accompanying music while dancing couples weave between the canes when they are held apart.
THAI CLASSICAL DANCE
The most important and stylish form of Thailand dance however is said to be the Khon classical dance. During this Thai dance form the non-speaking performers (who usually wear masks) feature stories or episodes from the Ramakien and costumes used are very traditional. In past times these dances were only ever performed at royal ceremonies.
The theme is the Thai version of the Ramayana, the Indian epic. Indeed, the Khlon classical dance is said to demand the most highly skilled performers along with the creation of the finest costumes and set designs. In 2012 the classical episode of Jong Tanon was performed in Bangkok to celebrate the 80th birthday of Thailand's Queen Sirikit. Indeed, it has been the royal patronage of Thai dancing through the centuries that has preserved many of the original or classical forms of dance in Thailand.
There are a number of cultural shows held in Bangkok and other regions of Thailand which showcase Thailand dance (see image above). For example, the Siam Niramit stage show (which allows you to sample Bangkok nightlife) provides a sample of Thai dance and is held within the massive Ratchada theater (within the Siam Niramit complex) in Bangkok. With seating for 2,000 people and shows held daily at 8 PM; gates are open from 5.30 PM to allow access to the Sawasdee Restaurant .