James Gnam. Foto: David Cooper
Simone Orlando. Foto: David Cooper


Thai Dance Company

Date and Venue 28 May 2009, 12 noon | Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie St

Reviewer Ed Farolan

The Dance Centre explored the elegance, beauty and precision of Thai dance with a performance by the Thai Dance Company in its last of the popular Discover Dance! noon series.

Led by Artistic Director Pimchanok Megara Solloway, the company presented a selection of exquisite dances with elaborate costumes Thai dance is well-known for. Demonstrating classical, traditional and dramatic styles as well as dances from different regions, featuring live music with a Jakay, a traditional Thai string instrument performed by Thiratha Devahasstin, and Ram Daab (Sword Dance) by Sarana Sophanpanichkul, the audience was delighted by the company's 45-minute presentation.

After the performance, a question-and-answer session followed, and the audience asked questions such as "How do you get your hands turned all the way back?" to which Megara answered, "Our teacher forces the fingers all the way back with the help of warm water."

The company has been in existence for more than a year, and they're composed of mostly Thais who were born in Canada or came here when they were little. I could tell this because most of them didn't speak with an accent, as they were already educated in schools here. This is another example of the success of Multiculturalism in Canada where our children continue on with the culture of their parents.

Another question asked was whether live music was preferred to accompany the dances, to which Solloway answered, "Yes, that would be the ideal traditional way of doing it, but because of resources, the company had to use recorded music instead."

I enjoyed the regional dances, where each region of Thailand from Changmai all the way down to Phuket was represented. Thai dance always starts with a presentation whereby fresh rose petals are sprinkled and offered, followed by a blessing dance (Daowa-dueng/Worachet) where dancers ask a blessing from celestial beings. According to Megara, even during rehearsals, prayers are said before the start of a practice session.

One dance which sort of parallels the indigenous native dances of the first nations of Canada was Manohra, a half-bird, half-human princess who is accused of bearing a bad omen and therefore sentenced to be thrown into the fire. Manohra manages to escape while performing a sacrificial dance and in the last sequel, Satchatree is performed whereby Manohra's return is celebrated. The costumes in this particular dance were exquisite, with Manohra wearing beautiful colored wings, while the other dancers also had their wings as they celebrate Kinaree Ron, or the bird goddess dance.

© 2009 Ed Farolan