Pichet Klunchun Dance Company in Contemporary Thailand and Global Stage

Sun Tawalwongsri

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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This thesis aims to study Pichet Klunchun and his dance company (Pichet Klunchun Dance Company) in order to understand the development of contemporary dance performance in Thailand. Klunchun has developed his own dance style and choreographies based on his expertise in khon (Thai classical masked dance). Black and White was selected as a case study of this thesis. The choreographic process and creative process of its theatrical elements exhibit his inspiration and contemporary interpretations of the fundamentals of khon. This thesis investigates how khon and its body are understood, experienced and employed in the dance studio and on stage. At a primary level, I address Thai contemporary dance and khon from a historical perspective and use literature from the field of dance studies to provide a contemporary perspective on the importance of khon within Thai cultural identity. Through research, observations, interviews and analysis with dancers and other associated project coordinators within Black and White, and through personal experience as a contemporary dance practitioner, I assert that khon and its elements are fundamental in empowering Thai artists to elevate khon into an internationally recognised dance movement. This thesis is composed of five chapters. Chapter One is an introduction contemporary dance trends in Thailand, how these have emerged, been influenced, adapted and progressed. Chapter Two centres on Pichet Klunchun, as the central figure in the revival of khon within Thai contemporary dance, analysing some of his solo dances and collaborative works with international artists. Within Chapter Three the spotlight falls on his company and analysis of their performances and choreographies. The Chapter Four and Five describe and analyse Black and White as a ground-breaking modernisation of traditional Thai masked dance. Through an in-depth understanding of the stages of a traditional khon performance, Pichet Klunchun was able to successfully re-invent and re-interpret khon, including the choreographic process, the creative process behind the masks and costumes and re-imagining of the music and lighting. This study illustrates how Black and White as an innovative re-interpretation of khon, has not only built on the knowledge base of contemporary dance but in turn has shifted the direction of contemporary Thai dance and has had a significant impact on the world dance movement.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cohen, Matthew, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Pichet Klunchun dance company
  • Khon Dance
  • Thai contemporary dance

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