Pichet Klunchun at Jacob's Pillow

Chui Chai (Transformation) July 14 to 18

By: - Jul 08, 2010


A U.S. premiere from Thailand arrives at Jacob’s Pillow July 14-18 in the Doris Duke Theatre. In the full-length work Chui Chai (Transformation), internationally acclaimed performer and choreographer Pichet Klunchun entwines khon, a form of traditional Thai masked dance drama, with contemporary movement.  Intricate costumes and masks and music by Sinnapa Sarasas create a world of ancient beauty and drama that Klunchun juxtaposes with elements of modernity. Noted for their “unearthly, mesmerizing” movement style (Joel Loebenthal, The New York Sun), Klunchun and his company of female dancers explore themes of change and culture through captivating choreography.  This engagement marks the first time Jacob’s Pillow has presented classical Thai dance in its 78-year history.
Ella Baff, Executive Director of Jacob’s Pillow, comments, “Pichet Klunchun is astonishing.  He embodies grace, a combination of refinement and intensity, and an ability to generate imagery that only the best dancers in any classical form throughout the world possess. Most people in the U.S. have not seen either traditional Thai dance or new contemporary work from Thailand.  At the Pillow, you will see both, and I think it will be very interesting for audiences, not to mention, they will be duly wowed by the dancing.”
Chui Chai, “as ornamental and sculptural as Thai architecture” (DanceViewTimes), tells a traditional story of transformation in conjunction with Pichet Klunchun’s innovative choreography, which utilizes forms and images of Thai dance to create a unique vocabulary. Joel Loebenthal of The New York Sun praised the work, noting that “Klunchun succeeds in the sometimes dicey attempt to hybridize traditional forms of stylization with contemporary tropes and steps.”  The women of the company, clad in elaborate costumes, perform classical khon steps while Klunchun, in jeans and a t-shirt, executes contemporary movement phrases; making Chui Chai a commentary on the assimilation of different cultural traditions.
Pichet Klunchun, who began studying khon at age sixteen, returned to Thailand after dancing abroad for many years and started his own company to raise awareness and respect for classical Thai dance, with the belief that it can contribute to and influence contemporary movement forms. He recently collaborated with French choreographer Jérôme Bel to create the award-winning Pichet Klunchun and Myself, a “funny, touching and provocative” (Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times) verbal and physical dialogue between Bel (representing the Western world of dance) and Klunchun (representing the East).
Thailand’s most classical form of dance, khon is regarded as one of the most refined of performing arts and was originally limited to the royal court. Performances are extremely expensive to produce, requiring costumes, masks, headgear, and stage accessories that require highly skilled craftsmen to create. The dancers’ costumes are often sewn onto them prior to each performance to ensure a secure fit and the intended movement of the cloth. Developed from Hindu military rituals and Thai martial arts in the 17th century (with roots to dance traditions from centuries earlier), khon is characterized by highly stylized, slow, deliberate movement, and gestures of the hands are very articulated and specific. Traditionally performed by troupes of masked dancers, khon tells stories of good and evil from the Ramakian, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana.
While at Jacob’s Pillow, artistic personnel from Pichet Klunchun Dance Company will lead a Master Class on Sunday, July 18, 10-11:30am.  Sunday Master Classes are open to intermediate/advanced dancers and pre-registration is required (call 413.243.9919 x5). Master Classes are $15 per class or $8 for dance instructors with proper identification. Observation is free and open to the public. 
Also while at the Pillow, Klunchun and Sojirat Singholka will join Pillow Scholars-in-Residence at 5pm on July 15 to discuss the traditions of Thai dance and how they affect Klunchun’s work, as well as a discussion on how contemporary work is built on traditional foundations handed down to the next generation of artists.
Performance and Ticket Information
Wednesday, July 14 – Saturday, July 17, 8:15pm
Saturday, July 17 & Sunday, July 18, 2:15pm
* Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob’s Pillow Scholars-in-Residence are offered on the porch of the Doris Duke Theatre 30 minutes before every performance.
* Tickets range from $30-36.
* Tickets on sale now online at
, via phone at 413.243.0745, or in person at Jacob’s Pillow.
* Pillow Members receive exclusive benefits.  To become a Member call 413.243.9919 x125.
Free Events at the Pillow July 14 – 18
Free “Inside/Out” Performance - Nimbus Dance Works and Taipei Crossover Dance Company
NEW TIME Wednesday, July 14, 6:15pm
Artistic Directors Samuel Pott, a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and Taiwanese choreographer Xiao-Xiong Zhang bring their companies together in The Butterfly Dream, a new work centered around the ideas of self-invention and recreation, drawing on the diverse backgrounds of the dancers.
Free “PillowTalk” Discussion - Thailand's Traditions Today
Thursday, July 15, 5pm
Blake’s Barn
Although Jacob's Pillow has long focused on traditional dances of many cultures, Pichet Klunchun's current engagement marks the first presentation of Thai dance here.  This discussion of Thailand's dance traditions also touches on how contemporary work is built on the timeless foundations handed down to us.
Free “Inside/Out” Performance – 1ara wi1son dance project
NEW TIME Thursday, July 15, 6:15pm
An alumna of The School at Jacob's Pillow, Lara Wilson's inspirations are historic and contemporary stories of women. Dancers perform Early Morning Comes, an upbeat work set to swinging, soulful music, and Figment, in which movement interacts with whispered dialogue.
Free “Inside/Out” Performance - Stefanie Nelson Dancegroup
NEW TIME Friday, July 16, 6:15pm
Choreographer Stefanie Nelson presents excerpts of Proximity Spiral, in which Nelson moves the dancers’ bodies into instinctual, rowdy movement. Originating from an idea born while in residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, this “ferocious” (New York Times) work based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers builds with unrelenting intensity.
Free “PillowTalk” Discussion - Pilates at the Pillow
Saturday, July 17, 4pm
Joseph Pilates taught at the Pillow during the 1940s and 50s, developing a system of body conditioning now practiced throughout the world.  Some of his former students and associates reminisce in a PillowTalk program that focuses on Pilates himself and recalls his pioneering work.
Free “Inside/Out” Showing - The School at Jacob’s Pillow - Contemporary
NEW TIME Saturday, July 17, 6:15pm
The three-week Contemporary Program directed by master teacher and choreographer Milton Myers covers a range of diverse contemporary choreographers.  This first week concludes with dancers showing excerpts from Ronald K. Brown's acclaimed work Grace, staged by the choreographer himself.