Graceful, dramatic and visually stunning, Thai dance is one of the must-see experiences for anyone that come to visit Thailand.
The ancient performing art has origins that can be dated back to 1431. It includes six distinct forms; the khon, a formal masked dance drama that was originally performed for the royal courts and plays out the traditional fable of the Ramakian; lakhon encompasses several types of dance dramas; likhe, a partly improvised folk play with elements of dance, comedy, music and melodrama; manohra, the southern Thai version of likhe; nang or shadow plays, and hun luang or puppet theatre.
Khon Masked Drama
Each performance of khon includes a large cast of characters, namely humans, demons and monkeys.
The elaborate nature of the performances, enormous cast and intricate costumes means that a full show is an expensive undertaking and at one point the art nearly died out.
In recent years, however, thanks to the National Theatre, khon has experienced a revival of interest. The scenes performed in a khon originate from the Ramayana, the epic Indian poem of courage, magic and humour. Over time, the Buddhist Thais have adapted the story to their own distinctive culture.
Thai manohra is a southern Thailand form of likhe. It is thought to be the oldest style of Thai dance drama and has a similar storyline to the Ramayana in which Prince Suthon sets off to rescue the kidnapped Manohra, a khinnari or woman-bird princess.