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Publication Date : 24-01-2013
The 'Our Roots Right Now' festival pulls together dance and theatre performances from across Southeast Asia
Bangkok, or more specifically, Chulalongkorn University's Department of Dramatic Arts, is playing host to "Our Roots Right Now", a research forum and festival that aims to draw links between dance and theatre traditions and how these are being staged in Thailand and other as other countries in Southeast Asia.
And to emphasise the ties between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with China and India, both of which have great influence on our region, these two nations are here too.
Veteran actor and director Dangkamon Na Pombejra, who chairs the department, explains that the event is divided into four interconnected components. First is "Research", which comprises "presentations of academic papers by various guests of honour, and research and creative works from the 'Our Roots Right Now: Ramayana project', which has been well supported by the Thailand Research Fund."
The former includes an opening address "New Possibilities of the Classic" by Surapone Virulrak, president of World Dance Alliance (Thailand), who will also stage his new work "The Tragedy of Ravana".
Hong Kong's globally acclaimed director Danny Yung, who was bestowed the Merit Cross of the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany in 2009, also spoke on "Reinterpreting Traditional, Recreating Contemporary".
The latter comprises four professors' works on how Ramayana is still relevant to us here and now. Pornrat Damrhung has worked on the Tai-Lue version of Ramayana and her production of "Yok Rob" was presented at the Asia-Pacific Theatre Schools Festival last August in Taipei. Bhanbhassa Dhubthien has been working with the Wat Ban Don Nang Yai Troupe and staged this work at the Esplanade's "da:ns festival" last October in Singapore. Meanwhile, Dangkamon's "Ravanasura" and Parida Manomaiphibul's "Femme Fatales in Lanka" are in development and the audience will see a staged reading, with English subtitles.
Dangkamon calls the second component "Revue" and it comprises "diverse contemporary performances developed from Thai/Asean cultural roots".
The curtain rises every evening at 7.30 at the Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts, and one ticket allows the holder to watch three productions every evening. The programme changes every two days.
Today and on Friday, the audience can watch Cambodia's Amrita Performing Arts in "Bach Cello Suites" and "Ferocious Compassion", and then Thailand's Waewdow Sirisook in "Fauwn Leb/ Identity" and Singapore's Daniel K's "Q&A", which is being created from an online survey.
The closing performance on January 28 is the much anticipated "Fire, Fire, Fire", supported by the Goethe Institut's Tanzconnexions project and scheduled for its world premiere in Phnom Penh today.
Cambodia's Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, Indonesia's Eko Supriyanto and Thailand's Pichet Klunchun are working with their respective company members on the same episode of Ramayana.
Dangkamon calls the third part "Appreciation", and this includes "including post-performance discussions, exchanges of experiences among artists, and workshop sessions." He adds that Pichet Klunchun's "Picture, Posture, Life" workshop is now fully booked.
For the more adventurous, on Friday afternoon, Daniel K, recipient of Singapore's Young Artist Award, will conduct "Circles Around a Point", a workshop in which he deals with different series of movement, ranging from pop, tango, pole dance to capoeira.
Early on January 27 is Sujata Goel's "Exotica" workshop, which she describes as "Discussion and response to the topic of exotica translating into patterns of movement and gesture patterns, in order to, as an outcome of the workshop, generate tangible material on the subject."
As for the last component "Evaluation", Dangkamon says, "roundtable sessions that analyse and sum up the key insights and knowledge gained from the programme are held in the morning of Monday, Wednesday and Friday."
In the end, he hopes that "the diverse research presentations, performances, workshops, and assessments of contemporary Asian dance and theatre in this unique event will enable all artists, educators, and anyone interested in the arts to exchange information and experiences about creating dynamic and compelling contemporary performances. He also hopes that by bridging original cultural roots with current lifestyles, arts, ethical themes, contemporary Thai and Asean dance and theatre will further develop their intellectual, aesthetic and social reaches."
My own hope is that we become aware that Unesco has a list of Intangible Cultural Heritage items and none of ours is currently on it.
"Our Roots Right Now" runs until January 28 at the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University.