“Pichet Klunchun and Myself” will live on after all, fans are delighted to hear.
"What is your name?" Jérôme Bel asked Pichet Klunchun in a little quiz as what was billed as one of the final three performances of "Pichet Klunchun and Myself" began on Monday (20th February).
"How old are you?" It happened to be Pichet's birthday. Typically enough for someone his age, he avoided being specific.
"What is your profession?"
As if he didn't know already after 100-odd performances of this show around the world, Bel—the celebrated French choreographer of contemporary dance—learned that Pichet was a khon dancer.
And off they went.
With them onstage were two chairs and a laptop. The minimalism assured no distractions from their intimate pas de deux, a cultural exchange in which they talked a lot—about history, mythology and dance traditions—and danced a little.
Never taking his eyes off the laptop screen, Bel played the cultural tourist, firing off his questions. The mention of Thai classical dance piqued his interest.
Khon, Bel learned, was once the dance of the royal court but now plays primarily to tourists— at hotel restaurants, no less, "or sometimes around the swimming pool". Pichet's voice was high-pitched with bitterness.
He set out to demonstrate its subtlety, to demystify its codified gestures. He moved his arms up and down—it was part of a battle scene, he explained. The arms trace the setting sun, and now it was time for the warring armies to rest.
The revelation drew gasps from the audience, confirming Pichet's assertion that few Thais actually understand the masked dance, despite childhood schooling in the Ramakien, from which khon derives.
Pichet did what he called a slow mourning walk, and then gestured as if to suggest dripping water. "This is a funeral," Bel said softly. "It starts to rain. It is sadder." Bel was learning to "read" khon.
Pichet and Bel performed impeccably, having polished the duet since its premiere at the 2004 Bangkok Fringe Festival, and yet they talked as if meeting for the first time. Neither seemed to have any idea what the other would do next. It was as entertaining as it was informative.
Pichet had his turn asking questions, letting Bel explain his contemporary choreography. Bel said he'd lost interest in "spectacle" and wanted actual reality onstage—not a representation of it. What if the performers just stand there, for example, saying nothing, just looking at the audience?
"Jérôme, I'm very disappointed," Pichet replied, to general hilarity.
But Bel didn't want viewers to get what they expected, he said nonchalantly. That's too easy. He wanted to get them thinking. The notion is certainly valid, but I found his attempt to justify the concept of so little happening onstage a little too desperate.
And because Bel's inventive approach for "the equal people" came after Pichet's highly representational dance for the monarchy, I couldn't help feeling that Bel was using Pichet and khon to display his own "brilliance".
Tuesday's [21st February] event had been hyped as the penultimate performance of "Pichet Klunchun and Myself" ahead of tomorrow's [25th] denouement in Hua Hin. The duet was being put to rest forever.
Not so, as it turns out.
After Tuesday's show, its creator, Tang Fu Kuen, joined Pichet and Bel for an audience chat. Tang acknowledged that none of them expected anything more than the one-off in 2004. But a producer in the audience asked them to take the show to Kunstenfestivaldesarts in
That history now looks set to continue unfolding. Bel delighted many viewers by saying they'd revive their "dance dialogue" at the right time and place, just not as frequently as in the last seven years.
Wherever "Pichet Klunchun and Myself" travelled, Bel said, "One of us had to be jetlagged."
written by Jasmine Baker
published in THE NATION on Friday 24th February, 2012
THE NATION photos
"If you are not member, please register to comment.
It take only a few steps."
member sign in | member register