An invitation by the Ministry of Culture to Thai dancer-choreographer Pichet Klunchun to visit in 2015 has had a major impact on his career trajectory and that of Horse (驫舞劇場) cofounder Chen Wu-kang (陳武康).
Chen was one of three Taiwanese artists whom Pichet met on that trip. Their discussions not only led to their two-man show Behalf (半身相), which they performed at the Cloud Gate Theater in May last year, but started them and Chen’s wife, dancer-choreographer Yeh Ming-hua (葉名樺), on a three-year journey to explore the great Sanskrit epic Ramayana and its impact on Southeast Asian cultures and traditions.
The trio began by traveling in 2017 to key monuments and temples in the region that have links to the Ramayana, to learn the history of the tale in different cultures.
Photo courtesy of Etang Chen
For Pichet, being Thai, the Ramayana — or the Ramakian, the Thai national epic based on it — has always been a part of his life. When he was 16, he began studying the classical masked dance form known as Khon, which tells stories from the Ramakian.
Last year, Pichet and Chen began studying with traditional dance teachers from four nations: Chulachart Aranyanak, a Khon master; Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, head of the California-based Khmer Arts Academy and an expert in classical Cambodian dance; Indonesian choreographer Sardono Waluyo Kusumo, who studied classical Javanese dance; and Shwe Man Win Maung, a member of Myanmar’s famed Shwe Man Thabin troupe who now lives in New York.
Next year will see the premiere of Rama’s House, the fruits of the pair’s exploration into the physical heritage of the Ramayana, which spans history, nations and contemporary culture.
But this weekend, Pichet and Chen are giving a first look into that work at the Wisteria Tea House (紫藤廬) in Taipei, with two 40-minute shows entitled Pichet Klunchun X Wu-Kang Chen Opening Performance (打開羅摩衍那的身體史詩).
In an unusual promotional outreach program, Chen is also offering a series of tea-time talks at Wisteria, beginning next Wednesday and running through June 28.
During the 45-minute sessions for two people, which can be booked individually or with a friend, Chen will talk about his travels with Pichet, their studies and the cultural impact on dancers’ bodies, while a tea master will introduce Wisteria’s teas.
There will be three appointment slots available every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
■ Pichet Klunchun X Wu-Kang Chen Opening Performance (打開羅摩衍那的身體史詩), tomorrow at 3:30pm and 6:30pm at the lobby of Wisteria Tea House (紫藤廬), 1, Ln 16, Xinsheng S Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市新生南路三段16巷1號). The first show is sold out. Tickets for the show are NT$600, available at: www.accupass.com/event/1904150314086763358070.
■ Tickets for the tea-time talks are NT$400, available at: www.accupass.com/eflow/ticket/
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