Tuesday, May 19, 1998

Thai cultural show features traditional dances, music, food

Thai cultural show features traditional dances, music, food
The Chicago Maroon
By Pamela Appea

The sound of Thai classical symphonic music greeted attendees of the first annual U of C Thai Cultural Night. The event took place Saturday night, May 16, at Hutchinson Commons in the Reynolds Club. Siam Square hosted the show, which attracted 130 students and community residents, Pechluck Suwatanapongched and Justin Ruaysamran, fourth-year students in the College, served as emcees for the event.

“It went well. I liked the performances. Everything went very smoothly. All in all, the event was very successful,” said Sompid Saamipak, president of Siam Square and a fourth-year student in the College.

Members of the Buddhadharm Temple began the program with three selections of classical music. Traditional classic music instruments include thereat thum, a rectangular instrument which curves outward, the zither, a stringed instrument with a hollow body, roughly similar to a guitar, the timbrel, and the gong kettle similar to a stringed instrument with a hollow body, roughly similat to a guitar, the timbrel, and the gong-kettle drums.

The instrument selections combined religious and secular themes of love, nature and spirituality. Thai classical music is no harmonic and combines melodic and rhythmic elements. One of the selections paid homage to a famous Thai waterfall, and the instruments imitated the sounds of water in nature.

Fon Tien, or the candle dance, followed. The six dancers synchronized their hand and body body movements to the music while swirling each of the two candles in an arch-like shape.
“The candle dance was magnificent. It was delicate and slow, and they danced together very well,” said Raksapok Thanaanuwong, a second-year student in the College.

Next, Pariya Phualsuk, of the Northwestern Thai Student Organization, read a Thai poem. “The poem stressed that women should be educated. It stressed the importance of being well-rounded both inside and outside the home,” explained Samipak.

Following the poem, the Manora dance was performed by Judy Pongched, a first-year student at Hinsdale High School. This classical dance originates from an ancient Thai folktale Manora was a princess who was kinari, or a mythical creature, half-bird and half human.

Suwatanapongched explained the story. Manora’s guardian wanted to keep her confined in a castle, so the guardian took Manora’s wings and claws away so that she would not be able to escape. One day, it was decreed that in order to escape terrible destruction of the kingdom, one animal of each kind would be sacrificed.

“Manora asked for her wings and claws back to do one last dance. In the end, Manora flies to freedom,” Suwatanapongched said.

Pallop Karnchanapanurach, treasurer for Siam Square and a third-year stydent in the College, then performed the Sai Phon song.

King Bhumiphol of Thailand actually composed the song which extols the importance of rain. The song praised the essence of nature after rainfall because trees are greener and crops will grow about being nourished by water.

A similar celebration, Loi Krathong is an annual festival celebrated in Thailand where the people pay homage to the Mother of waters by gathering at all the rivers, ponds, and lakes under the full moon.

The program concluded with the Ramwong Matrathan, which means a dance in a circle. This traditional dance is from central Thailand is usually celebrated after the harvest.
“It is an ancient village performance. Usually a guy flirts with a girl and they pair up with each other,” Samipak said.

“It is a great effort of the students here. They worked very hard. This [show] demonstrates the pride in their heritage,” said Achara Raz, MA ‘76 and director of business affairs at the International House.

A member of the Buddhadharm Temple agreed. “I just feel good and proud that I can be part of the show. If people who’ve seen the show travel to Thailand [one day]. I know they’ll love it,” said Busaba Pardungkiattisak, a resident of Wheaton, Illinois.

Dishes served at the dinner included Ar-Jard, cucumber salad, Nua Dad Dream, a beef dish, Gai Yang, traditional thai chicken, basil eggplant, and Musmun Gai, a spicy chicken and potato dish cooked with peanuts and coconuts. The event was funded by the Buddhadharm Meditation Center, Siam Restaurant, Student Government, the Pongched family, and the Thai Association of Illinois and other businesses.

Photo Caption: Dancers perform at the first annual Thai cultural show Saturday night.
Photo Credit: David O.
Originally published May 19, 1998