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Southeast Asian dancers reinterpret Sanskrit epic ‘Ramayana’

  • Date:2020-01-19
Southeast Asian dancers reinterpret Sanskrit epic ‘Ramayana’

Gliding from the success of the Taiwan-Thailand co-production "Behalf (半身相)" in 2018, Taiwanese choreographer Chen Wu-kang (陳武康) and renowned Thai dancer Pichet Klunchun will be launching another transnational collaboration by deciphering the physical poetry of the great Sanskrit epic "Ramayana," meaning "Rama's Journey," and researching its impact on Southeast Asian cultures and traditions.

They traveled throughout Southeast Asia to study traditional dances from each region, learning about different variations of the classic epic and its reveal of the history and politics of each country. The production looks into the ways that traditions have evolved and how they have been passed down to reflect upon the meaning of "traditions" in relation to today's world.

Chen and Klunchun will bring together four different dance traditions of performing the epic "Ramayana," with four masterful dancers from Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand joining as guest artists.

Each master practitioner will embody a main character in the Sanskrit odyssey — classical Cambodian dancer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is the female protagonist Sita; Javanese dancer Sardono Waluyo Kusumo is the Hindu monkey god Hanuman; traditional Burmese dancer Shwe Man Win Maung is the incarnation of Prince Rama; and Thai Khon master Chulachart Aranyanak is King Ravana.

The performance titled "Rama's House" will premiere at the end of August this year at Taiwan's Asia Connection Forum and be showcased at the Taipei-based National Theater and Concert Hall. Related dance workshops, small-scale shows, and salon talks will also be held in Taiwan and Thailand before the premiere.

Chen's Horse Dance Theater (驫舞劇場) and Klunchun's Chang Theatre hosted a "Rama’s House Open Studio" for the four great masters from Jan 16 through 19 in Thailand. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the different types of dance techniques representative of each country, and the workshop received an enthusiastic response from the attendees.

With the support of the Ministry of Culture's Emerald Initiative (2016-2017) for deepening Taiwan's cultural exchanges with Southeast Asia, Chen and Klunchun co-produced "Behalf" to great acclaim and went on to tour Belgium, France, Portugal, and Southeast Asia in 2018.