Thai traditional dances
Well known with nickname "The Land of Smiles", in Thailand kindness, grace and beauty are also expressed with its Traditional Dances. The beautiful girls dance barefoot with great smiles, graceful and delicate movements in their elaborate costumes. The dances are hypnotic and follow lovely rhythms made from oriental musical instruments. Traditional Dances of Thailand have ancient roots and have been used to entertain guests over the centuries. In ancient time, most of the dances were a prerogative of the Royal Court and were performed by young and pretty girls. Nowadays they are performing throughout the country on special events and popular festivals, as well as in many restaurants and theatres as attractions for tourists. The traditional costumes are always very refined and richly decorated, complemented by gold headdresses. The hairstyle is often embellished by orchid flowers. The dancers are very young and graceful because their intense workout; their young bodies extremely flexible allow sinuous movements and unexpected twists. The fingers, for example, twist to back up to the wrist. In a typical dance Lakhon, the heavy makeup and elaborate costumes cover the dancer’s personality; every gesture is highly stylized and immediately recognised by an expert. Observing a Traditional Thai Dance you are immediate perceive the link with the theatre, as if the performers are more actors than dancers.
Traditional Dances of Thailand can be divided into three main categories: Khon and Lakhon, which are the most classic forms of Thai Dance, and Fawn Thai, which includes different forms of folk dances. Khon is the most stylised form of Thai dance. In the past, this Thai masked dance was only performed for the Royal Family. It is now performed outside of the Royal Court, however, it is still considered to be one of the highest art forms in Thailand. Most of the dancers are men that wear elaborate costumes and masks to portray different characters. Khon characters include demons, monkeys, humans and celestial beings. The dance may require agility and muscular exertion. Dancers are accompanied by a chorus in the background and a Thai piphat orchestra, which usually consists of percussion and wind instruments. Most Khon performances feature episodes from the Ramakien, which is the Thai version of the Hindu Ramayana and Javanese Srivijaya.
Lakhon is less formal than Khon and the dancers do not wear masks. The costumes and stage settings are usually much more lavish than in the other forms of Thai dance. The rich costumes and golden hats shaped as stupa are inspired by the clothes of Kingdom of Ayutthaya. The lower half of the body does not move as much as the top, which with graceful and sensual movements of torso and hands throughout the performance portray different emotions. Dancers are mostly graceful women that perform together as a group rather than representing individual roles in a performance. Unlike Khon, Lakhon plots feature a wider range of stories drawn from the Ramakien, the Jatakas, which are the stories of previous lives of Siddharta Gautama Buddha, and folk stories. Lakhon can be divided in Lakhon Nai, which is the most classic form represented by court dancers inside the Royal Palace, and Lakhon Nok, which is a more popular form often associated with religious celebrations.
Fawn Thai is a form of folk dance accompanied by folk music of the region. There are different forms of Fawn Thai that will usually fall within five classic styles: Fawn Tian; Fawn Leb; Fawn Ngiew; Fawn Marn Gumm Ber, i.e. Butterfly Dance; and Fawn Marn Mong Kol, i.e. Happy Dance. Fawn Tian, meaning Candle Dance, is one of most popular northern dances, typical of Thai Kheun tribe. The performance consists of eight dancers, each carrying candles. Dancers are in pairs, one pair to each side, and wear full-length sarongs and jackets with a matching shoulder cloth. The female dancers pay homage to the divinities that protect the Earth’s eight cardinal points, asking them to pass on the candles light to pay homage to Buddha. This dance is always held at night. Fawn Leb, meaning Fingernail Dance, is a northern Thai dance style originating from Chiang Mai. Each dancer wears six inch long brass fingernails. The long fingernails accentuate the finger movement of each dancer. Dancers wear their hair in a chignon-style with a yellow jasmine flower tiara.
Fawn Ngiew, meaning Scarf Dance, is a northern folk dance that has origin from Chiang Rai. This dance is performed at a happy event. The dance is similar to the Fawn Leb but the dance is faster and more fun. Each dancer wears a yellow flower tiara, jong kra bane, and sabai. In addition to the most classic Traditional Dances, in Thailand there are other several forms of Regional Folk Dances, which are different for the plot, costumes and so on. Sword Dance is inspired by an ancient Thai martial art. It is practiced both with sticks and swords, and requires tremendous courage and strength, and excellent reflexes. Sword’s art has been practiced in Thailand since ancient times; the tradition would that before the fight was performed a ceremonial dance. The dancers balance a number of swords on different parts of their bodies while fighting off their rival with a sword sheath. Likhe is the most famous form of folk theater in Thailand. It's a burlesque version of classical Khon dance and is very popular in villages throughout Thailand. The shows are a combination of many different elements, from elaborate costumes to slapstick humour and sexual innuendo, throughout the performance. Actors and actresses often improvised during their execution, but always follow a script that speaks about love stories. Serng Kratip Khoa is a popular dance of north-eastern Thailand, Isan, which is performed during traditional festivals. Female dancers wear wicker baskets for rice, Kratip, and imitate women's movements that bring food to men working in rice fields. Choreography is accompanied by beautiful peaceful music. Serng Krapo, meaning Coconut Dance, is a folk dance which takes its name from the north-eastern dialect. This dance describes the group activities of Isan girls single. Dancers bring two coconut shells and perform complex choreographic movements, swinging, throwing, or hitting them with light touches. Bantheong, meaning Happiness Dance, is a popular Isan dance that is usually performed on festivals or special events. The fast but harmonious movements of female dancers are accompanied by songs and by typical north-eastern region’s folklore. Nora is a traditional folk dance of southern Thailand, in southern Thai language called the "Chatri". Its origins lie in various ancient legends. There are several forms of Nora and choreographies change from region to region, but is generally composed of 12 positions and 17 movements. Ram Nora Son Ram is the basic form of this folk dance, which is executed by concentrating on hand arm and shoulder movements, and on the equilibrium and movement of various parts of the body, and is accompanied by rather long lyrics. Ram Nora Klong Hong is an advanced level of Nora that is performed only on important occasions. The female dancers play the role of Hong or Kinnaree, a legendary creature who is half woman and half bird. The seven Kinnaree are playing in the lake in the middle of a wood. Struck by their beauty and light heartedness, Pran Boon, the hunter, chases the maidens in an attempt to catch the youngest. The lively harmonious movements perfectly evoke Pran Boon's pursuit of the Kinnaree as she tries to escape. Nora Tua Oon is a very refined version of the Nora dance that requires great interpretive skills and experience. To learn this folk dance it must be studied from a very young age so that the body can achieve the flexibility necessary to execute the complicated movements. The female dancers, in fact, follow a demanding exercise regime and a strict discipline. In Ram Nora Tam Bot the hand movements evoke the beautiful scenery of Songkhla Province in south Thailand. The verses of the song are accompanied by a very lively rhythm