Bangkok Post, Local - Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Dance greats stage cross-cultural version of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'
A whirlwind cross-cultural collaboration of frenzied energy, abstract
artistry and soulful spirit hits the Thailand Cultural Centre (TCC)
January 14 with the dance-world institution Marcia Haydee and renowned
dance artist Ismael Ivo.
Haydee's presence here can only be likened to receiving a revered
religious figure as she is one of the most influential and venerated
figures in performing arts today. She is in Bangkok to choreograph,
rehearse and coach Thai dancers for what will be a collaboration in
contemporary Thai dance _ an exciting, brand new dance adaptation of
William Shakespeare's The Tempest.
'It has always been a dream of mine to come to Thailand to work with
Thai artists. From the very first moment here, I felt very positive
about this experience,' she said.
Ivo echoed her sentiment saying he has relished every moment of this
collaboration with Vararom Patchimsavat's Dance Center School of
Performing Arts in Thailand.
'I can see that the dancers here are hungry for the new challenges, new
ideas, new materials that I have been giving them _ and that gives me
great pleasure,' said the distinguished choreographer, dancer and
'Choreography to me is about taking human bodies and transforming them
into instruments of creative expression. Some people say that I
transform my dancers into 'monsters',' Ivo joked. They don't become
garish ghouls, however, but rather, organic vehicles capable of
exceeding seemingly normal human limits to express something larger
Ivo is known for his ruthless demands and yet extraordinary powers of
inspiration. Dancers working with him transcend their normal limits in
the creation of great art.
Despite the lack of time (only 25 days of rehearsal as opposed to the
norm of at least two to three months), Ivo and the equally dazzling
Christina Perera, who accompanies him as rehearsal director, are
optimistic about the end result.
One Thai dancer who never ceases to impress Ivo, Haydee, and others is
Pichet Klunchuen. Through countless invitations to perform all over the
globe, Pichet has become a renowned soloist.
'Pichet is one of the great talents; he is truly very special,' said
Haydee of the Thai classically trained dancer turned contemporary
performer and choreographer. Pichet choreographs his own part in The
Tempest and even contributes to the artistic direction of some scenes.
As the phantasmagoric Ariel, Pichet 'never stops moving, even if it's
only with the fingers, because Ariel represents the force, energy and
dynamism that fuels the spirit,' he explained.
Haydee does yoga daily and works through a long day of coaching the
dancers before rehearsing her own lead role as Prospero, the king with
mystical powers who has conquered the island of Taliban. Vararom,
pending recovery of an injured ankle from a rehearsal accident, will
Although individual dancers have been designated roles, the entire
piece resembles more of an abstract evocation of The Tempest rather
than a literal portrayal. Don't expect a 'story ballet' rendition with
period costumes and pretty choreography. Instead, Ivo has conceived 'a
surrealistic vision inspired by magical realism' of the original
Shakespeare text. It is a turbulent, forceful and often emotional ride
through Shakespeare's original storm. This production will challenge
viewers as well as it challenges the dancers with expressive, powerful
and abstract choreography.
Ivo has found a personal connection to his Brazilian roots through the unlikely tale.
'Shakespeare wrote The Tempest right around the time that Brazil was
discovered, and it has been argued that the island _ this magical,
mystical paradise of the unknown _ could very well be inspired by the
notion of Brazil or South America ... the exotic unknown,' said Ivo.
To create the impression of this quixotic tropical realm, set designer
Marcel Kaskeline will morph the TCC stage into a lush mythical
rainforest filled with water, green 'membrane' walls and fantastic
'It is more an abstract impression of a rainforest. I want to create an
emotional statement rather than a literal set-up,' explained Kaskeline,
who hopes to transform the orchestra pit into a splendid pool of water.
'I want to create this sensation of things magically appearing and
disappearing through the membrane walls,' he explained.
Like the choreography and the very nature of the collaboration, the
sets connote a sense of timelessness and universality that transcends
any one particular culture. This theme of surpassing cultural
distinctions is also strongly communicated by Steve Shenan's original
The distinguished American composer received a long distance call from
Ivo days after the rehearsal process had begun. 'I took the next flight
[to Bangkok] from Paris where I live and work, and here I am trying to
create the entire music for the piece,' Steve recalled.
In combining Western sounds with traditional Javanese instruments, the
Thai khong wong (traditional percussion instrument) and even animal
noises, Steve's composition escapes any easy categorisation by genre.
'I wanted to create something more timeless and yet rooted in nature _
to bring back human beings' innate relationship with the natural world,
and their natural feelings.'
Here he alludes to another prominent theme in the play: raw human nature and its inherent struggles.
With so many different nationalities and languages coming together, it
is nothing short of miraculous to see the collaboration evolve into a
'After years of experience, a dancer no longer 'dances'; that is, he or
she no longer performs a series of steps or technical feats but rather
tells a story with his or her body,' Pichet said.
'All bodies are capable of telling stories, of expressing. That is how
Ismael and I can communicate during our scenes together despite coming
from completely different cultural and artistic backgrounds.'
Herein lies the beauty and magic of art: its powers to transcend any
artificial barriers, to connect humanity and to inspire all. The
connection of body language is so strong that Haydee already has
visions of the powerful duo on stage together in another collaboration.
Despite certain difficulties and obstacles of this production
(miscommunication, disorganisation and a few ill-fated injuries to name
a few), Ivo and Haydee have high hopes for the future of Thai dance.
'This is my first time in Thailand but I definitely hope it will not be
the last,' said Ivo, who relates to the Thai culture's close ties to
religion and spirit.
'I will come back here any time,' promised Haydee, who believes that
for the Thai dance scene, 'there will always be a bright future.'
- The Tempest will be staged January 14 at 7:30pm at the Thailand
Cultural Centre. Tickets at 2,500, 2,000, 1,500, 1,000 and 500 baht are
available through www.thaiticketmaster.com, or call Thai ticketmaster
on 02-204-9999 or the Dance Center on 02-259-8861.
Story by PICHAYANUND CHINDAHPORN