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It takes four to tango

Mar 11. 2016
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By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to

Jitti Chompee works khon movements into jazz music in his new show
At the Tokyo Performing Arts Market (TPAM) in 2012, Thai choreographer and artistic director of 18 Monkeys Dance Theatre Jitti Chompee met the Argentinean director of Teatro San Martin. They kept in touch and last September, the Thai company made its South American debut with “Monos”, in which three 18 Monkeys dancers, using the techniques and styles of classical Thai masked dance khon, collaborated with the Grammy Award-nominated jazz band Escalandrum, founded by a descendent of Tango legend Astor Piazzolla.
“It was a success. The Piazzolla family members liked this collaboration very much and have invited us to go back,” Jitti says. 
“There’s also interest from the Hague. The problem is that one of the three dancers Anucha Sumaman has a full-time job at the National Theatre and his schedule may not allow for frequent tours. I was looking for a double cast and Pichet Klunchun suggested [one of his company members] Porramet Maneerat. But then I realised that each dancer has a different personality and technique so I should just recreate this work for four dancers.
“BACC has been interested in this work from the beginning and I’ve been trying to bring the full band, with seven musicians, from Buenos Aires to Bangkok. For now at least, that’s not possible. Escalandrum has granted us the right to perform with their music, which is strongly based on tango roots. But without them sharing the stage with the dancers and the stage being smaller here, it’s not the same so I decided to create a new choreography. The structure remains the same though – we’re using all four character types of khon, namely phra (the male lead), nang (the female lead), yak (demon) and ling (monkey),” Jitti explains.
“While Escalandrum’s music was the origin of this interdisciplinary and intercultural work, many parts of the new choreography are inspired by paintings, like those of the Himavanta forest, and photographs from magazines that I like. I shared these images with my four dancers and they’ve been very quick in pitching in ideas and co-creating choreography.”
In addition to Anucha and Sumaman, the cast includes long-time member of 18 Monkeys Krittin Kiatmetha and Benjamin Tardif, a Canadian dancer who not only has been trained in khon’s monkey character but also finished his master’s in the teaching of performing arts from the Ministry of Culture’s Bunditpatanasilpa Institute.
Jitti is now hoping to run a small theatre studio with a monthly programme. 
“Classical Thai literature is a great resource and contemporary dance works can be new interpretations of the stories with which most of us are already familiar. This would also create job opportunities for new dance graduates,” he says/
Buenos Aires to Bangkok
“Monos” is at the 4th floor studio of BACC (BTS: National Stadium) from Friday to Sunday at 7:30pm. 
Tickets are Bt800 (Bt400 for students) at (081) 814 3304. 
Find out more at and at the “18 Monkeys Dance Theatre” page on Facebook.

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