Hip-hop and tradition set the stage for a Moving time Friday, Jun 20 2008 

Last month, dialogue filled the Bangkok stage, as the number of theatre productions rose significantly. This month, dance has taken over. On the audience’s part, the loud applause and wild cheers remain the same.

Last week at Patravadi Theatre, the two-programme, four-day event “Hip Hop of the World” commenced with Cie Etha-Dam’s “Aduna, Land of Adventure”, shown on Wednesday and Thursday. With vibrant choreography and engaging soundscapes, seven skilful hip-hop dancers exceeded audience expectations of electrifying moves with a carefully crafted tale of a quest for a virgin and sacred land.

On Friday and Saturday, it was Asian hip-hop’s turn to rule the stage. In “Kham”, Laos-born, France-bred Ole Khamchanla started the night magically, guiding the audience through his life journey with a solo performance.

It was a tale of a search for identity amid the cultures of the West he has embraced and that of his country of origin, which is becoming increasingly foreign to him. Khamchanla came across as a true contemporary artist for seamlessly mixing hip-hop with traditional Laotian dance.

A sharp contrast was provided by the two subsequent pieces, “The Bench Story” and “The Spartan” by Thailand’s Free Soul, which came across as flashy, amateurish shows that were made more ridiculous by being overloaded with costumes involving leather vests and Roman armour.

Fortunately, “Ecoute”, a French-Thai production created as part of a workshop led by Kamchanla with Thai hip-hop dancers, did not share the same fate, as there was clever variety in the steps.

Finally, “Listen to Laos”, a production created in Laos and France by Vientiane’s Lao Bang Fai Company, really had the audience thrilled with its fine combination of hip-hop and Laotian arts that reflected contrasts between rural Laotian lifestyles and modern society’s ways.

At the Crescent Moon Space, B-Floor staged its debut of “Shatter Room No 0”. The characters in the play wanted to move on to a better place, like all of us do. They fought one another violently and strove to be different. Yet, they were still stuck in the same old room following the same routines.

“People do things to get something, but usually end up getting some other thing instead … That’s life,” remarked two characters.

Although this physical play may have been a bit too wordy, it carried the message – fittingly for our politics perhaps – that we have to learn to appreciate what we have even though it might not be what we really want. Acceptance, or tolerance in some cases, is the key.



Son Dambi Performing Ciara’s Like a Boy Monday, Apr 28 2008 

Break dancing takes to the global stage Friday, Apr 25 2008 

Ann Hornaday / Washington Post
Remember break dancing? That acrobatic, kinetically graceful art form that busted out of the streets in the 1970s? Do you miss the power moves, the freezes, the head spins that seemed to go on forever? Where did it go?

Global, according to “Planet B-Boy,” a documentary about the spread of break dancing throughout the world and its almost spiritual importance to the “b-boys” (and they are mostly boys) who practice it. After a brief history of how breaking emerged with emceeing, DJ-ing and graffiti art as part of hip-hop culture, filmmaker Benson Lee takes viewers on a whirlwind tour of Japan, France, South Korea and Las Vegas, profiling break-dance crews preparing to compete at the 2005 Battle of the Year, an international break-dance competition in Germany.

Lee does a good job of raising the stakes along the way, so by the time we see the crews take the stage at the battle (think the Sharks and the Jets on Red Bull), viewers are intimately familiar with their personal stories, from the Japanese and Korean crew members grappling with similar issues of filial piety to the white French kid who is the mascot of his multicultural team.

For all the energy and personality of its subjects, “Planet B-Boy” tends to drag, especially toward the competition finals. But Lee makes a spirited and persuasive case for break dancing, not only as an art form of strength, beauty, discipline and instinct, but as a means of transcending caste and culture.