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Classical Dance

The history of Thai drama has generally been treated as a part of the study of Thai literature, culture and customs. The earliest literary references to Thai performing arts appeared in the stone inscription of Phor Khun Ramkhamhaeng, the third king of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The monarchy plays an important role in the development, enrichment and patronization of dramatic art in Thailand. The golden era of Thai dance was during the reigns of King Boromakot in the Ayutthaya period and King Rama II in the Rattanakosin period.

In the reign of King Rama VI (King Vajiravudh), classical dance-drama was influenced by western civilization and culture. He wrote, produced and directed plays during that period. Modern dance-drama, 'lakhon phut' (spoken drama) and 'lakhon rong' (sung drama) was introduced as a way to prepare the Thai people for the modern world.

Thai dancers hold their bodies upright from the neck to the hips, moving up and down using only their knees, and stretching to the rhythm of the music. The arms and hands in Thai dancing are held in curves at different levels, but do not point like ballet. The beauty of the dancers depends on how well these curves and angles are maintained in relation and proportion to the whole body.

The actors mime the story line and lyrics provided by a singer and chorus off-stage. Traditionally, there are 108 basic movements, which are different for men and women. In order to perform well in the dance-drama, dancers have to learn the language of gestures. Although there are strict patterns of movements to follow, dancers can still explore their individual talents as creative artists.

Thai dramas were usually performed for royal entertainment and on special occasions such as birthdays, welcoming ceremonies, cremations or simply at the wish of the patron. Various types of drama were performed, but most popularly the 'khon', 'lakhon' and 'hun'. Nowadays, many of the older performances have all but disappeared, like the 'kula ti mai' (the ceremonial baton dance) or the 'mongkhrum' (the ceremonial drum dance).

'Khon' 'Nang'
'Lakhon' 'Hun'

Find further information on regional dance.

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