At the Fairfax Studio in
I couldn’t help thinking of what has, or has not, recently happened in the
One of the reasons why I've been going to the Melbourne Festival every October—apart from an opportunity to watch quality performing arts by world-renowned European and Australian companies I cannot see in Thailand and Singapore— is that I enjoy the sessions where artists are interviewed by either the festival director, local critics, or professors, and talk to the public about their life. And this is usually more in-depth than the post-show Q&A held right in the same venue where the performance just ends. Well, one difference is that for the forum you don’t need to buy the ticket to the performance, and if you like what you hear, which is more detailed than in the festival’s program anyway, then you can buy a ticket to see the performance. And that’s exactly how many audiences are doing, especially for the companies or artists they’ve never known.
The forum is frequently held a day or two after the opening night, when the artists are ready to face the public, some of whom may have already watched the performances or seen the work and are able to ask specific questions.
Apart from this, the festival may have an artist-in-residence programme in which a foreign guest artist arrives ahead of the festival, spends time collaborating with local artists and sometimes tests the audience reaction through rehearsals. An outcome of this may be a work-in-progress presented during the festival that can be further developed by both partners, or there may not even be a concrete outcome, just a chance to share and exchange ideas.
Not all of this happens in the
On September 23, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in
The morning after Cloud Gate thrilled the audience, the masterclass by the company's associate artistic director Lee Shing-Shun was held at the Thailand Cultural Centre's semi-circle room, and, unlike master classes by other visiting companies, was announced publicly. Any professional dancer, no matter what group affiliation, could join. Now that the list of active contemporary dancers has been compiled, some of these dancers regrouped at the workshop with Xavier Le Roy in October, this time thanks to the Goethe Institut and Alliance Francaise de Bangkok.
I didn't attend the Cloud Gate master class of course--the only time I can dance now is after 11pm, and it's not what you may call contemporary dance. Instead, here's a brief report from my student advisee Lalita Jantaro, 18, who is also a professional ballet and Spanish dancer:
"I was delighted to participate in the Cloud Gate master class because it gave me new styles and techniques. The master gave a quick brief of how she usually leads her class in
"Even so, compared to my other dance backgrounds that include ballet, jazz, contemporary and hip-hop, the workshop was extraordinary. I felt calm as I danced throughout the whole hour and a half. I moved with consciousness from posture to postures without being afraid of injuries because each step was totally clean."
She concludes: "In the future, as I continue my dance career, the techniques I learned from the workshop will definitely help me as I'll be aware of the corrections of my body and use of muscles when I'm dancing."
It's clear that Lalita doesn't plan to study Chinese, learn tai chi, fly to
Next came the forum, and a delightful fact was that the main speaker Lin Hwai Min, Cloud Gate's artistic director and choreographer, stated from the start that he wanted to invite Pichet Klunchun to share this session with him. Not so delightful was the fact that when the organisers were hoping to hold the afternoon forum at Thailand Cultural Centre's Small Hall - the morning master class and the evening performance were
Instead, the forum was held eight MRT stops away, at
Back on the positive track, sitting on stage with the two world famous Asian artists as the moderator was a great honour for me.
The Taiwanese master gave a brief yet insightful introduction on how his company has developed artistically and administratively--amidst immense obstacles and prejudices, both political and cultural--from the beginning 36 years ago to today when Cloud Gate has become the pride of the nation.
When the Thai choreographer voiced his opinions and problems, Lin Hwai Min gave valid suggestions in addition to encouragement, by saying that his career wasn't even at Pichet's stage when he was the same age. It's clear that there's a lot more for Pichet to do, especially in terms of company’s management, in order to prove that classical Thai dance and theatre is still relevant, and will live on for centuries—not as museum artifacts—and this conversation with Lin Hwai Min confirms that after all he’s on the right path.
After the forum, a few dancers from another group, Sonoko Prow and her friends at Khandha Art ‘n Theatre Company who had signed up for the masterclass, asked me if tickets were still available. They bought the tickets to the second performance at the door. Sonoko sent an email later, saying the whole experience—attending the workshop, listening to the forum, and watching the performance—was “highly inspirational” for her and her company members.
One of the criticisms the Bangkok Festival has received is that it showcases only foreign works, and overlooks many local ones, some of which are of similar quality. So, if the festival wants to prove that it is truly significant, if not vital, for audiences and artists here, and hence deserves more financial support from the government, or our tax money, holding these extra events that benefit local artists and audiences may be a good place to start.
written by Pawit Mahasarinand
published in THE NATION on Friday, October 16, 2009
THE NATION photos by Supakit Khumkun
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