The upcoming International Dance Festival presents an exciting range of dances, workshops, and lectures
Now in its 17th year, the popular International Dance Festival, organized by the Friends of the Arts Foundation, remains the best-known festival for contemporary dance in Bangkok. The shows this year—which run from November 9th to December 3rd—include dance-troupes from Portugal, Spain, and Turkey, as well as a brilliant dance-film from Israel, Bollywood sessions, an important charity dinner, and an exciting range of lectures, master-classes, and workshops.
The mastermind behind the festival is Varoom Pachamama, co-founder of the Friends of the Arts Foundation. She studied ballet in London’s famed Royal School of Ballet, and was the first professional ballerina from Thailand to dance with the international dance company abroad. She started a school—called Dance Centre—more than three decades back, which became hugely popular as she taught both classical and contemporary dance forms there. In fact, she produced numerous students who today run more than 20 schools of their own.
“Dance is education through movement,” says Vararom, and in order to spread this “education” to as many segments of students as possible, she has—apart from choreographing many dance dramas herself—held dance programmes, classes, and workshops for numerous foundations for underprivileged children. All these dance performances, choreography sessions, workshops, and lectures form the basis of her annual International Dance Festival, which first started 17 years back to celebrate ‘World Dance Day.’
Thus, this year’s festival has live performances by top dance groups from abroad, followed by lectures and workshops given by the foreign choreographers to a wide range of dance-students. There are also varied unique venues for the performances. After all, Vararom was the one who held the International Dance Festival for a decade in the open-air Benchasiri Park. She has also held performances in shopping malls, hospitals, and various non-traditional venues.
The grand opening event at this year’s festival is on November 9th, and will be held on the open-air lawns of the Portuguese Ambassador’s heritage mansion. This charity event—a gourmet, sit-down dinner, followed by a silent auction of artefacts donated by well-known Thai personalities—aims to raise funds for the training of at least 20 underprivileged youth in dance. The highlight of the evening will be a performance by the famed Olga Roriz Dance Company from Portugal, whose 15-member troupe will be enacting Igor Stravinsky’s memorable Rites of Spring.
In keeping with Vararom’s sustained efforts to introduce Thai talents on the global stage, 10 talented Thai dancers will partake in the show alongside the world-famous Portuguese dance troupe. In addition, Olga Roriz, the founder of the company, will hold a two-week workshop and rehearsal with Thai dance students before the gala fund raiser evening.
The official opening party takes place on November 14th at the lush Helix Garden of the EmQuartier Mall, where the Nik Zuk Dance Co. from Spain will perform. The group is noted for their vibrant and varied dance styles, including break-dancing, dervish spins, and circus acts. They will be accompanied by a band of sensational musicians who will spin out a scintillating mixture of folk, country, and blues music. The artistic director of the troupe will also hold a contemporary dance workshop for Thai students the day after the show.
The Izmir State Opera & Ballet are the next dance group to perform at the festival, at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) on November 24th and 25th. They will enact a marvelous modern ballet The Colour of Dance, which Turkish Ambassador H.E. Ms Evren Dağdelen Akgun describes as, “A feast to the soul, while eternal in its celebration of dance and life”. This dance programme will be followed (for the next four days) by a master-class, as well as ballet workshops for different age-groups, by the ballet master of the group, Murat Acemoglu.
Then, on November 26th at the BACC, by two totally diverse dance groups—the Opals Dance Company from Italy, and Anthony Hutchinson & Friend, from Japan—perform on a double bill. The former will enact their experimental and exciting version of Swan Lake, called Once Upon a Time-A Swan Lake, and the latter will enact their individualistic experimental show called Malignant Temperaments. Both the dance groups will also hold workshops for Thai dance students, after the show (Anthony Hutchinson’s duo will hold a hip-hop workshop).
A rather unique show at this year’s fest will be the screening of a film from Israel, on the life of Had Naharin, one of their most individualistic and renowned choreographers, and Artistic Director of the well-known Bathsheba Dance Company. The film, called Mr. Gaga, will be shown at the BACC on November 28th. This riveting documentary, made over a period of eight years by filmmaker Tomer Heyman, traces the personal and professional life of this charismatic artisté, who created waves both in Israel and New York. The screening will be followed by a discussion with well-known Thai film professionals.
There will also be a Showcase of the Works of Young Thai Choreographers, which is an important feature of the festival. In fact, Vararom is proud that many Thai choreographers have been ‘discovered’ at this festival, and have gone on to perform abroad with many foreign dance troupes worldwide.