Bangkok’s spectacular International Festival of Dance and Music will be unfurled from September 10.Lekha J Shankar
It’s time for Bangkok’s best cultural extravaganza to unleash itself. The International Festival of Dance and Music (September 10-October 14) has yet another impressive amalgam of old and new art-forms, including several unique new additions.
Now in its 14 year, the festival is the brainchild of well-known Thai-Indian publisher and cultural impresario, Kukoo Uberoi. This year, a top Indian dance group from Odisha will take the stage, besides those from various countries such as Argentina, New York, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Holland.
The festival, noted for its scintillating Russian shows, will open with Ukraine’s Virsky National Dance Company. The 70-strong group, with its dazzling costumes and movements, is expected to set the stage on fire as it has done in over 70 countries around the world. The New York Times described their style as, “Absolutely stunning!”
Then comes the famed Chelyabinsk State Opera Theatre, which will perform two all-time favourite operas – ‘Carmen’ and ‘Madam Butterfly.’ The two operas will be enacted by a troupe of more than 150 artists. The former, based on George Bizet’s masterful musical creation, centres around a flirtatious gypsy girl and a soldier, while the latter, based on Puccini’s haunting scores, revolves round the moving love story of a Japanese geisha girl and an American soldier.
The wonderful music of the two operas will be resurrected by the Chelyabinsk State Symphony Orchestra. In addition, they will provide an evening of grand symphonic music, led by award-winning Conductor Anton Grishanin, with compositions of maestros such as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Dvoøák.
One of the most keenly awaited shows is the all-time-favourite, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake,’ performed by Germany’s much-acclaimed Staatsballett group. This group from Berlin brings 120 dancers and 72 musicians, in what promises to be a spectacular production, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of cultural relations between Germany and Thailand.
The other classical production is Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons, by the Spellbound Dance Co. from Italy. This will doubtless be an innovative version of the classical tale by Italy’s best-known contemporary dance theatre group that has created waves at festivals around the world with their arresting choreography. In keeping with their innovativeness, this production will include multimedia effects and original music tracks.
For contemporary styles, there are a diverse and dynamic array of groups this year. The Baltic Dance Group from Poland, noted for their outstanding dancers and ground-breaking choreography, has had a film made about it by BBC. A critic raved after their show, “During the spectacle, there is no time to breathe!”
The Quasar Dance Company is a sensational group from Brazil. Their 18 productions by the celebrated choreographer, Henrique Rodovalho, found connections between amazing physicality of the body and the soul, and changed the history of dance in the country.
The Limon Dance Co, one of the oldest and most celebrated groups from New York, have performed at nearly every major theatre in the country, including the Lincoln Centre and the White House. In fact one of their best-known choreographers, Jose Limon was even celebrated in a ‘stamp’ – just like legendary artists, Isadora Duncan and Bob Fosse.
Another thrilling group is Blaze from the Netherlands. It has 16 dancers, and there are a mix of DJ’s, B-Boys, and break dancers, who have performed with artists such as Madonna and Michael Jackson and have blown away audiences wherever they performed.
The Gypsy Kings from France are another brilliant addition this year. The singers hail from families of gypsy musicians and several generations come together in this one-of-a-kind show, which promises to be an amalgam of red-hot rhythms.
Another interesting event is BBC’s ‘Planet Earth’ Live. A celebration of music and film, this outstanding show has well-known conductor Richard Harvey focussing on Gerorge Fenton’s music with the 80-strong Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside HD footage on a giant screen of the landmark BBC series that was shot in over 62 countries.
In order to attract more young people to the festival, there is a unique, solo show by the famous Swiss magician and illusionist, Peter Harvey. Harvey, with his spectacular sets, Las Vegas glitter and amazing tricks, has won many awards and often been compared to David Copperfield.
Argentine’s Tango Dancers has proved to be one of the most popular groups at the Festival. This year, there is an outstanding set of 12 sizzling dancers who will end the festival on a stunningly sensuous and exhilarating note.
Last but not the least, comes the Indian performance by the Orissa Dance Academy, whose interpretation of the Ramayana, through the ‘Nava Rasas’ of dance, is much looked forward to by culture buffs. With live musicians, dazzling dancers and the liquid grace of the dance form, the group is expected to be one of the highlights. The Academy, under its founder Aruna Mohanty, has won rave reviews, around the world. The New York Times described their performance thus: “The ecstatic culmination of music and dance.”