This afternoon I had the opportunity to watch a performance of “Ramayana and Aladdin 2012” performed by the Chiang Mai Ballet Academy. I went with all of the other teachers, as well as Leon and Gloria and their two very princessy granddaughters (who fit right in, since there were a lot of young children in the “babies” classes dressed in pink tutus who were part of the show. Before watching the show, I had wondered what connections would be drawn by the creative directors between the stories of the Ramayana and Aladdin. As it turned out, no explicit connection was made.
The Ramayana portion of today’s performance at the Kad Theater in Chiang Mai was the incident of Rama and the Golden Deer, where the giant demon lord Ravana lures the foolish (gullible) princess Sita out of an enchanted pavilion by using a disguise and then kidnaps her and drags her off to Sri Lanka after he has had a fellow demon disguise as a golden deer for Rama to hunt. The dancing was a bit of ballet, but there was a large amount of Thai-style dancing as well, and the music and dancing were both very traditional. If the incident can be taken as symbolic of Satan kidnapping the Church when it leaves the protection of Christ, we can learn the lesson that the church is really stupid sometimes, but at least the dancing was lovely.
The performance of the Aladdin story (in five acts!) was much more eclectic. Eclectic really is the only word to describe it. A British-trained bel canto singer (named Narach Kitavadhana) sang two excellent numbers, “Nature Boy” at the intro and “A Whole New World” near the end. The same male dancer, a Thai-Italian named Shan del Vecchio, performed both Rama and Aladdin, and he did a fine job, both with the more lyrical and classical ballet numbers as well as in hip hop routines. The Aladdin piece (which had a 20 minute intermission after the third act) was very eclectic, including Celtic songs, folk songs (O Susanna and Roll Out The Barrels), a Shakira number along with a flamenco piece and a Spanish song about a little goat, a hip-hop song about Arab money, some techno songs, a Mozart sympohony that I know I have performed before but could not remember the name of, the Dance of the Sugar Plum fairies, along with some Middle Eastern numbers (including some excellent belly dancing by a young lady who was playing Ginny the Genie), and a pas de deux between the two leads.
At the end of the show, after the Westerners clapped for all of the dancers, came a long and very Thai presentation of awards for and by various important people in the audience, including the Consul-General from Japan in Chiang Mai (who made a faux pas by leaving the stage before giving the award to the teacher in charge of the Chaing Mai Ballet Academy, and had to be guided back to center stage to give the last award) as well as the Honorary Consul-General from the Netherlands in Chaing Mai, who chose the winner of the free Thai Airways trip (not me). A particular highlight of the show was seeing all of the students dance, and seeing the heavy population of Westerners watching them. It was the first time since I have been in Thailand being at a social event where there seemed like more Westerners than Thai. It would make sense that ballet would be that event, though.
I was reminded anew why I like dancers so much. Despite not being the most graceful or elegant person, I love the grace and elegance that comes with dancing. It wasn’t as polished a performance as it could have been, certainly there were a lot of minor flaws thanks to a lack of order or practice, or a bit too many nerves, but all in all it was well done and enjoyable. The leaders in particular were very excellent, and if my princess is in another castle (it does appear as if the event was a little princess heavy), at least it was an afternoon well spent with good company, and that’s always worthwhile. I didn’t even let the customary royalist brown-nosing in the complementary book that came with the ballet get me upset.