The multi-talented Xuan Xu adds drama to Bangkok’s nightlife scene
Life on the streets of Bangkok is—at once—bizarre, unpredictable, and downright theatrical. The same, however, cannot always be said of this city’s nightlife scene, where predictability is the norm and finding something out of the ordinary can be a challenge.
One Bangkok resident intent on shaking things up is Xuan Xu. Born into an artistic family—her mother is a Beijing Opera performer, and her father a Chinese Wu Shu master who appeared in martial arts movies—she lived in China till the age of seven and then spent her formative years in Germany, greatly influenced by her parents’ artistic lives and the cultural milieu that surrounded her. “I grew up with a lot of Parisian-style, French-influenced entertainment,” she says.
Xuan first came to Thailand in 2009, on an internship, but it was her return visit in 2013—while working for a German consulting firm—that she crossed paths with Ashley and Sonja Sutton, just as they were launching Maggie Choo’s. This was to become the turning point in Xuan’s professional life. She created an early production for Maggie Choo’s and soon after decided to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. In 2015 she was involved with the genesis Sing Sing Theater (another Ashley Sutton designed space), creating edgy costumes for the performers, and producing themed productions. She spent 15 months as the art director of Sing Sing Theater but her focus these days is on standalone productions—her latest being the dinner show production Flavortale, currently being performed every Wednesday evening at Medici Kitchen & Bar at the Hotel Muse.
“For me, as an ordinary person living in Bangkok, I was always missing the cultural part of the nightlife scene,” Xuan explains during a quick pre-performance chat. “I mean, we do have it here, but it’s more underground. So we have the one extreme which is artistic underground performances and exhibitions, and then the very commercialized entertainment. But there’s nothing in-between.
“In other cities, from Berlin to Las Vegas, you have something in-between which is very entertaining, easily comprehended, and delightful—but also cultural. This is something that is missing overall in Asia. Even in Singapore and Hong Kong you don’t find it. This is why I feel very grateful for Hotel Muse and Nicolas Peth, the hotel’s GM. Nicolas is a great art lover and when we sat down together to discuss this project I said I would like to take the risk and do something new.”
The show, subtitled “Imagine Flavors Can Dance”, presents three separate staged dance interludes which are performed as the audience enjoys dinner, or drinks, or both. Each dance represents a flavour grouping, beginning with Spice, moving on to Sugar, and culminating with a hip hop ode to Salt & Pepper, to the tune of—you guessed it—80s hip hop icons Salt-N-Pepa.
Costumes are a big part of the spectacle, and Xuan designs each of the outfits herself (with the help of local costume makers). The ‘Spice’ portion, which opens the show, features five female dancers dressed in demonic red and black form-fitting outfits that borrow as much from S&M fetish wear as they do from Italian Carnevale masked balls. Four of the dancers form a ring around the central character—a trained flamenco dancer—who stomps out a fiery rhythm on the small wooden stage, accompanied by original music composed by local musician and DJ Scott Hess.
After a short break, and another course served to diners, the show resumes with ‘Sugar’, wherein the female dancers return—accompanied by a lone male dancer—decked out in brightly coloured fanciful princess gowns, performing mini-choreographies to the sounds of instantly recognizable pop tunes. The third and final set sees one more male dancer join the throng, and the two guys—with silver salt and pepper shaker lids on their heads—cavort with the ladies who are this time sporting outfits that give a nod to Lady Gaga’s famous ‘meat dress’.
“It’s only three small shows but a lot of energy has been put into it, developing the concept and so on,” Xuan points out as we enjoy a post-performance talk. “I think Bangkok can be a great stage for this type of dinner theatre entertainment. I also really love local performers, but Thai dancers don’t enjoy the attention like they do elsewhere. So my wish is to one day provide them with a stage where they can fully do what they love.
“Ashley Sutton, introduced me to this life I am living now,” Xuan admits, as we speak about her artistic inspirations. “He’s my mentor, and what he’s doing in terms of interior design is what I want to do in setting the trend for entertainment. We don’t want to only put on a beautiful show, we also see we have a mission to prompt others to dare to do the same thing.”
About Medici Kitchen & Bar
Located on the basement level of the Hotel Muse, Medici Kitchen & Bar is no stranger to mixing theatrics with fine dining, as they present pop-opera band Fivera nightly between 8:30pm and 10pm. However, until September 27th Wednesday evenings are given over to Flavortale, an original stage show that combines extravagant visual effects, glamorous costumes, and striking dance performances (beginning promptly at 8pm). Doors open at 6:30pm for guests wishing to enjoy dinner and show, and here Chef Nicolino Lalla shows off the vibrancy of his new menu with tantalizing selections such as: traditional Sardinian style lobster salad with mixed greens, red onion, cherry tomato, and celery (B590); chicken breast wrapped with pancetta, filled with mozzarella cheese, sundried tomato, and truffle sauce (B780); and grilled grass-fed beef tenderloin sliced with rocket, Grana Padano, and balsamic reduction (B1,100). Those not ordering dinner are also welcome to attend—bar seating is available—and there is no admission fee. For reservations call 02 630 4000.
By Bruce Scott