Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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This article explores two different attempts to make partnerships for the today's stage with teams of classically-trained Southeast Asian dancers in the last three years. Working in different conditions and toward different ends, the Cambodian and Thai dancers discussed in this paper combined their classical artistic training and interests into performances differently directed toward today's diverse dance audiences. In particular, this paper will reflect on two classically-grounded partnering projects I helped to bring into being as a contemporary theatre artist and producer: the masked dance (khon) performances done at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre in Bangkok and the Revitalising Monkeys and Giants work-in-progress with Cambodian and Thai artists. By focusing on how these pieces evolved due to their distinct blend of external conditions and artistic aims, I will raise questions about the multiple and complex reasons that prompt traditional artists to work together across national and genre boundaries in order to make new pieces that are meaningful to them and to their audiences. The larger questions raised in this essay will address the identity of these traditional artists in these new settings and what grounds the varied choices of performance partnerships for their diverse contemporary audiences. I will also consider whether these new linkages can help to strengthen dance traditions and enhance the confidence of traditional performers on the stage today.

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