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Publication Date : 12-12-2012
The Pichet Klunchun Dance Company returns to the Bangkok stage this week and the good news is that it's not necessary to travel to the troupe's Chang Theatre in Thon Buri to catch the performances. Thanks to support from the Siam Society and Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, "Ganesh" is coming downtown.
Thailand's most frequently travelling dancer and choreographer Pichet Klunchun premiered his contemporary dance solo work "Ganesh" in mid-2009. Back then, it was his most politically charged and artistically daring work. This revival is not political and it's no longer a solo but instead a work he has created for his company. However, as it's being performed in three different styles - classical Thai, modern and contemporary dance - it presents a huge artistic challenge.
"It's not about politics, but society, especially class, power and rights - exactly the same as the original story," says Pichet.
"I was approached by the Siam Society and initially I was thinking of doing the classical Thai version of 'Ganesh' [or 'Phra Phikanet Sia Nga' in Thai] only. I think it's important for our company to perform in the classical Thai style at least once a year for the public in Thailand. But as I was working on it, I thought I should do more and I had already done the contemporary dance version. And so I decided to stage it in three styles in one evening to allow the audience to compare them. It's never been done like this before in Thailand."
Pichet says that each part is being staged in different areas of the Siam Society - the classical Thai dance in the garden, the modern dance in the auditorium and the contemporary dance in the parking space right next to Asoke Montri Road, with high-rise hotels and condominiums as well as Soi Cowboy as the backdrop. The costumes and the lighting will also change accordingly and the dancers will perform different roles in each part.
"It's like the audience gets to watch three different performances in two and a half hours. Their thoughts and feelings will be totally different in each of the three parts. I'd like to show that the arts are constantly evolving and this ever-changing nature concerns not only the form but also the audience's perception of them."
While the classical Thai version is strictly by the book, the dance movements, the accompanying classical Thai music performed by a piphat ensemble, on CD, and the costumes follow the traditions of "Ganesh" as it has been staged for more than a century as a prologue to khon performances, the modern dance version, Pichet says, "uses a different storytelling technique - it is not restricted to specific characters.
"The modern dance movements, with newly composed music, have actually been developed from those of classical Thai dance, not their western counterparts, as the audience would likely assume. Some audience members may argue that it's not modern dance. My answer to that is that modern dance has various styles and this is one of them.
"And although many people are confused by the differences between modern and contemporary dances, our 'Ganesh' will show that they are vastly different. I hope that the audience will see that this last part is actually like folk arts and realise that contemporary arts are not difficult to understand. I predict that our contemporary dance version, including the way the traditional music score is performed, will raise many questions and probably controversy."
Pichet reconfirms that this is a company's work, not his solo: "I'd like to continue to develop the dancers in my company." The Silpathorn Award artist will perform in only the classical Thai and contemporary parts. "A special message to the followers of my work: this is a truly rare occasion when I dress up in classical khon costume and perform. I don't even remember when the last time was," he says.
And that alone leaves no doubt that "Ganesh" is an absolutely must-see dance performance this month.
"Ganesh" is at the Siam Society today, Thursday and on December 19 at 6pm. Visit www.PKLifeWork.com.