Preserving the spirit
The Magic of Thai Culture kicks off a series of programs celebrating 60 years of Thai-Israeli relations.
The Magic of Thai Culture Photo: Courtesy
It’s no secret that Israelis love Thailand.
In fact, if one were to visit
Bangkok without knowing the actual population of Israel, one might easily get
the impression that our tiny land was 50 times its size. Indeed, Israelis
maintain a consistent presence in Thailand, keeping the pathway open between the
In the coming months, Israel and Thailand will celebrate
60 years of diplomatic relations, a milestone in a warm friendship. Events will
be held in both countries to honor the occasion.
The first of these
events, The Magic of Thai Culture, will kick off this week in Jerusalem and Tel
Aviv. An evening of Thai music and dance with traditional artists will be open
to audiences as a first taste of the program that is about to begin. The
production is the initiative of the Thai ambassador to Israel.
choreographer Anucha Thirakanont put the performances together, making sure to
include a variety of elements that are representative of traditional Thai
performances. The type of dance to be presented is called khon, which is thought
to have emerged at some point between 1400 and 1700.
Khon shows often
center on the character of King Rama from the Hindu epic Ramakian, or Ramayana.
Props, stage combat and singing are features of this celebrated art
“Classical dance is always a part of Thai life as a form of
entertainment, as well as ritual,” said Thirakanont in a recent interview with
The Jerusalem Post. “From weddings and birthday parties to funerals, dance can
be found throughout Thailand.
Blessing dances are believed to bring joy
and happiness to the audience, while dance is performed at funerals to
commemorate the deceased person, as well as to bid farewell to loved
The performances will include nine musicians, 16 dancers,
traditional instruments and elaborate costumes, each of which weighs up to 20
kilos. In performances such as this one, the connection between music and dance
is an obvious element. The dancer receives information from the musician and
returns this input in the form of energy.
“In classical and folk dances,
music is inseparable from dance. It gives the dancer rhythm and tempo, as well
as setting the mood for the performers and the audience,” says
While a great deal of work is put into Thirakanont’s
choreographies, he sees his place as a type of vehicle of an ancient art
Through recreating the dances that have been performed for hundreds
of years, Thirakanont acts as a type of cultural anthropologist, educating and
“The dances that we bring to Israel are not newly created but
something we inherited from our forebears,” he explains. “What we are doing is
preserving and presenting to younger generations.
The classical dances
may be adjusted to accommodate modern theatrical presentation, such as in length
and blocking, but the spirit of the dances, be it folk or classical, is
Thirakanont’s productions have represented Thailand in
many international locales, such as Europe and South America.
performances offer an opportunity for the artist to convey the inner secrets of
his country. In his eyes, these performances expose the soul of the Thai people
today and in the past.
“Working together with respect for our culture,
training laboriously and with love and then letting the spirit of our nation and
music carry us away is absolutely thrilling,” he beams. “Moreover, we stage
classical dance dramas in various forms and present them in all kinds of venues
– parks, temple fairs and national theaters. Amid the wave of globalization,
with more choices for entertainment, classical and traditional folk dances are
still deemed special and worthy in our society.”
The Magic of Thai
Culture will be presented at Habimah National Theater in Tel Aviv on February 27
at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. (072-222-2515), and at the Gerard Behar Center in
Jerusalem on February 28 at 8:30 p.m. ((02) 625-1139).