After a two-year delay due to travel restrictions, this long-awaited production arrives in Singapore right after its tour in Europe. A must-watch for those who are interested in innovations in classical art, it provides an accessible entry into decoding tradition, paving the way for the appreciation and future trajectories of traditional dance.
No. 60 is a treatise on Pichet Klunchun's two-decade-long research on the language of traditional khon. Stripping the classical form of its face mask and sequined costume, Pichet scrutinises the 59 poses and movements in the Theppanom canon which all Thai classical dancers acquire by rote-learning. He then generates six new principles that undergird the 700-year-old system and presents a manual of hand-drawn diagrams and notes that allows the younger generation to think and learn rationally, free of mysticism and ideological imposition of history.
Comprising two choreographic studies that enact Pichet's philosophy of relativity and fluidity, the first applies the formal logic of abstraction, cool and contemporary while the second is more mimetic, affective and closer to the expressive nature of khon. Each study also reflexively breaks down the lexicon that constitutes its choreography, and lets us observe the rigour of an academic approach and the potential of structured improvisation for the contemporary trajectory of khon dance. Responding to dancers Pichet and Kornkarn, sound artist Zai Tang provides live music on stage.
As No. 60 unfixes the rigidity of classicism, it also embraces the sense and soul of Thai legacy. It unfolds a complex dialogue between tradition and innovation as they inhabit and circulate within the same continuum—not as binary opposites—to inspire individual thought and motility in times of autocracy.