What you're not supposed to say
Pichet Klunchun is ready to unleash on khon, monks, TV and sexy dancingInternationally acclaimed dancer-choreographer Pichet Klunchun is presenting two shows to European, one of which Thais still haven't seen - "Nijinsky Siam", performed in Bangkok last September, was in Lisbon in April and
"Black and White" is going to the Netherlands and Switzerland in August.
In between his company's travels, though, we'll get to see Pichet perform solo in "Culture and Fact". It's onstage every weekend this month and next.
"I wouldn't call it contemporary dance," he tells me. "There are some dance movements, but I mostly work with objects - I've never worked with so many objects before, in fact, but they help me present the abstract subject matter."
He speaks in one scene, too - in English. "I'm an international dancer!" he laughs. But this sounds like a serious production.
"The work is highly critical of contemporary Thailand, especially in terms of culture. Among the issues discussed is why classical Thai culture is beyond logic and can't be questioned. It seems that whenever we talk about it, we always overlook reason and fact."
Pichet is annoyed that khon - the traditional masked-dance theatre - is "sanctified" to the point that it's considered above criticism. "We can only gossip about it - we can never say anything publicly. The artists, the works, the objectives - they all seem untouchable.
"So against all odds I will directly and explicitly voice my criticism of khon in one scene. How can this art form progress without criticism?"
Pichet feels much the same can be said about the practice of Buddhism today and the way monks behave. It's "a major problem for Thailand to move forward into the future", he complains.
"We cannot progress far ahead as long as we continue using culture to judge what's right and wrong.
"I think the general public should come to watch this, because it might inspire them to think about what they sometimes overlook. Foreign expatriates will also enjoy it because I'll show that not all Thais think alike regarding many cultural issues."
Along the way, Pichet will address a subject that makes headlines every Songkran - scantily clad young women dancing suggestively in public for the enjoyment of large crowds. He's alarmed that many Thais think it's harmless.
"For me this is unusual, and shows something is terribly wrong with our society. We don't think about what this act can lead to. As a dancer of 24 years' experience, I'll explain the underlying meaning of this so the audience can see it's a very obscene act and question how a Buddhist society can regard it as 'cute', when it's an eight-year-old girl dancing, not when it's teenagers, despite the same movements"
In another scene Pichit comments on the overbearing power of TV. "Anything or anyone on TV is either right or good," he says. "I'll show how my body reacts to certain cultural works with the help of YouTube, for example. Since they're natural, these reactions are factual. Human bodies can never lie."
He guarantees that "Culture and Fact" is unlike any other show he or his company has presented before, and says he won't be surprised if some audience members walk out.
"I'm a contemporary dancer after all, so viewers never know what they're going to get or whether they'll like the performance. They have to take the risk."
Face the facts
"Culture and Fact" opens at 8pm this Friday and continues every Friday and Saturday through July 28.
It's at the Chang Theatre on Soi Pracha Uthit 59 in Thon Buri's Thung Khru district.
Tickets cost Bt1,000 (Bt350 for students) via (080) 924 0002.
Find out more at www.PKLifeWork.com and the "PKLifeWork" page on Facebook.