Khon in Sala Chalermkrung

See Khon, the classical Thai masked dance.

If you like to see classical dance, and you want to experience something that is different from the usual ballet performances, then Khon might be something for you.

Khon is a classical Thai dance performance, also known as the masked dance. Old poems dated to the late 16th century or the early 17th century in the Ayutthaya period mentions the dance, making it almost as old as ballet.

However, unlike ballet, Khon is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

In addition, Khon is more colourful than the usual ballet performances, as can be seen in the picture above. Instead of tights and skirts, Khon uses colourful and sparkling costumes and masks.

The most important figure in many of the performances is the monkey warrior Hanuman (to the right in the picture). Typically, the stories are more formidable than the stories in ballet performances as Swan Lake. Often, they tell stories of war and heroic deeds.

Sala Chalermkrung

You can see Khon in many places in Thailand; however, the "right" place to see the dance is, of course, the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre in Bangkok.

Originally, Sala Chalermkrung was a cinema when it opened in 1933. King Rama VII paid and named the cinema. The name means "pavilion for the celebration of the city", and it refers to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Bangkok's founding. The cinema had room for 1,000 spectators, and it was the first cinema in Thailand with air conditioning.

Side note: If you visit a cinema in Thailand, you will probably curse the air conditioning. Usually, they have the temperature set at "goosebumps". I will recommend a sweater!

Renovated and modernized in 1992, Sala Chalermkrung now serves as a royal theatre with room for 600 spectators. The most popular and recurring performances are the Khon performances.

You can see clips from a performance in this video:

As in ballet, it is helpful to know the story before you see the performance. If you do not know the story of Swan Lake, you will not understand much of the performance; the same goes for a Khon performance.

You can read about the story for the current performances at Sala Chalermkrung's website; here, you will also find a program of the upcoming performances. At the top of the page, you will find a link to an English version; however, they do not translate all the texts.

Tags: Khon - Culture - Activities - Sala Chalermkrung

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