Mekong Cultural Hub

A Dialog with Pichet Klunchun through ‘No.60’

Continue writing Tradition – A Dialog with Pichet Klunchun through ‘No.60’ is an intimate sharing session with Pichet Klunchun co-organised by MCH Fellows Tanawat Ally Asawaitthipond and Le Thuan Uyen together with other Thai and Vietnamese partners. The event introduces the creative journey and philosophy of Pichet Klunchun, the artist who is credited with ‘contemporizing’ Thai traditional dance, to Vietnamese audiences who are interested in the subject of traditional cultural acculturation, through a special research on ‘No. 60’. 

The talk focuses on sharing about ‘No.60: The Demonstration”, an expanding project from the original ‘No.60’ performance by Pichet Klunchun. While No.60 serves as a performance piece introducing the audiences to the new light of Thailand masked classical dance  , ‘No. 60: The Demonstration’ emphasizes the role in the academic realm. 

Being considered a Thai- high-art practice,  Thai Classical dance has been passed down from the top masters to their successors via rote learning methodology (memorization technique based on repetition). However, the way to master the practice was never about the notion of choreography nor interpretation which results in the limitation of the fundamental poses and their transitional movements known as ‘Mae Bot Yai’ employed in Thai classical dance performances for decades. \

No.60 is the fruit of Pichet Klunchun’s almost two decades of effort of studying, examining, and deconstructing Thai Classical dance ’s 59 major postures. Even though he did it all with the concept of conservation in mind, what Pichet Klunchun had discovered and done to develop No.60 is quite extreme: he deconstructed Thai Classical dance and created something new from it, something unfamiliar to Thai people. Six key elements were discovered, then depicted into diagrams and written notes, and created the new learning system. Now that the rigid postures have been transformed into a concept of elements and structure, this set of knowledge will help the young generations to see and understand the whole system of movement central to Thai classical dance. No.60 therefore frees classical Thai dance of its rigid classicism while stressing its rich sensibility and vitality by highlighting the importance of unique and agile thinking. It creates a complex dialogue between tradition and innovation, which both work to produce the range of contemporary dance, without being opposed to one another. 

How to respond to the act of conserving traditions is a controversial topic shared by both Thai and Vietnamese art practitioners. On the one hand, othorodoxial system often requires traditional art practice to be left untouched, unchanged which results in its misfit to the present world. On the other hand, in order to join the world of contemporary art, classical art practitioners must change the way of seeing, learning, and treating the old principles. The experiences and lessons learnt through ‘No. 60: The Demonstration’ project not only stimulates the audience to look at Thai classical dance under a new light, but also to encourage them to look back to their culture and adapt and apply the system with different contexts. 

The Talk is supported by Mekong Cultural Hub. 

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