Tribal Trappings – Asian Ethnic Art, Artifacts, Textiles and Folk Art Tribal Trappings – Thoughts about Thailand, Chiang Mai, things tribal including textiles, ethnographica and folk art <data:blog.pageTitle/>

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Toto... We're not in Kansas anymore!

I was privileged to witness an amazing performance of dance and music recently and am still not over it. The performance was a benefit for the renovation of a temple in Keng Tung, a Shan State nearby in Burma, and was probably the vision of the former chair of the Art Department at CMU, Ajan Vithi Phanichphant, who is consulting on the renovation. He has been a tireless advocate for the arts in Thailand, including dance, music, architecture, and textiles. Here (below), he presents images of the temple as an introduction to the performance.

The performance was a sensory delight, with special music composed for each dance, beautifully elegant costumes, dramatic lighting, and original dances which combined traditional Thai, Javanese, and Balinese dance with modern interpretation. I didn't want it to end.

Photography was problematic due to the strong lighting and movement, but I subject you to my efforts in an attempt to convey the beauty and exoticism of this special event, and to give credit to the talented performers.

On the left, the very talented Ajan Manop Manasam becomes a 'kinnara', a mythical creature with a bird's legs and wings on a human body. His costume was no doubt an original, personal creation comprising layers of sumptuous silks, golden wings, and sonorous ankle bracelets and other jewelry.

Below is Waewdao Sirisook in a Javanese (Cirebon) batik performing a modern interpretation of Javanese dance. K. Waewdao has studied Balinese dance in Bali, and is a MFA Dance candidate at UCLA.

Thitipol Kanteewong played his 'magic flute', from which he elicited the most beautiful and haunting sounds which I could have listened to for hours. (No, those are not charmed snakes in the foreground- they're lotus flowers along the edge of the stage.)

This dance featured a king-like figure and two women (worshipping subjects?) who used their long bodice wraps as tensioning for a 'menage a deux'.

A sexy, upbeat version of the traditional candle dance had everyone mesmerized by the fast pace, risk-taking moves and flying, hot wax.

Another standout was the elfin Ronnarong Khampha, who in a past performance of The Tempest must have been perfectly cast as Ariel (I didn't see it, but he's Ariel personified). For this dance he donned a traditional Thai loincloth, with painted upper legs (in acknowledgement of the tattoos with which men used to cover their upper legs), and the long finger extensions which give the elegant Thai hand movements such grace. His movements were beautifully controlled, powerful, yet light and graceful. It's no surprise that he has also been studying Javanese and Balinese dance in Indonesia.

After this incredible performance, I have vowed to not miss any of the events involving Aj. Vithi, Aj. Manop, or their students- they truly have a gift for theater and the performing arts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cheers to Mom!

August 12 is a big day in Thailand- it's the birthday of Queen Sirikit as well as Mother's Day. We celebrated by going to... where else but The 'Mother Temple' of Chiang Mai: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which overlooks the city. It was founded by an elephant carrying a piece of a holy relic: after three days of climbing Doi Suthep the elephant circled three times and then fell over and died at this site. The temple is now accessible via a 20 minute car ride on a good road full of switchbacks and twists and turns. Over 200 steps up a naga-flanked staircase complete the journey to the final level which affords a spectacular view of the city.

While there, we chanced upon another 'mom': a mythical creature featured as a textile and tattoo motif, and often seen guarding temple sanctuaries. All we lacked to complete my Mother's Day was daughter Leslie.