The modern royal ballet “Manorah”, composed by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, will be highlighted at his Royal Cremation next Thursday, October 26.
The rare Western dance will be staged along with traditional Thai performances, including Khon mask dances and a royal puppet show, on three stages. The public performances in front of the Royal Crematorium and another three stages signify the late monarch’s high status.
The tradition is a gift for the general public and simultaneously signals the ending of the official mourning period.
Considered the kingdom’s “Supreme Artist” King Bhumibol’s personal artistic talents included vivid painting, stunning photography, thoughtful literature and beautiful music. But the general public rarely experienced his artistic talent in modern art forms like ballet.
The cremation provides a highly anticipated opportunity to view “Manorah,” a ballet based on the late king’s 1961 music composition of the same name.
The ballet will be the opening act on the stage near Thammasat University. A live orchestra made up of almost 1,000 musicians, singers and choral singers will present a classical-music concert entitled, “Tha Keu Doungjai Thai Tua La” (“His Majesty is in the Hearts of All Thais of the Land”). It will feature music composed by the late King as well as songs written to honour him.
Leading choreographer Suteesak Pakdeedeva has given the one-act ballet a neo-classic style and auditioned the best ballet principals from all over the country for this special show. The 29-minute ballet will performed by 89 dancers to the sound of music performed by 89 members of the orchestra and 89 choral singers. The number is based on the age of the King when he passed away on October 13, 2016.
It tells a romantic story of legendary prince Phra Suthon and the supernatural kinnaree (half-bird and half-human) princess called Manorah.
“The Royal Ballet Manorah is recognised as an East-meets-West masterpiece,” said Suteesak. “Our King was very talented, effortlessly blending the classical dance of ‘Phra Suthon-Manorah’, a play from Thailand’s south, with modern ballet.”
The King composed the “Kinnaree Suite” featuring five tunes, namely the “Nature Waltz”, “The Hunter”, the “Kinnaree Waltz”, “A Love Story” and “Blue Day”.
The King then ordered Khunyiing Genevieve Damon, a French ballerina married to an American diplomat, to choreograph his ballet, while Pierre Balmain designed the extravagant costumes for the main characters. It was staged at Suan Amporn near the King’s Rama V statue in 1962 and has since been restaged on special occasions. Suteesak, 58, performed a cameo in the ballet more than a decade ago.
“The new performance will bring a contemporary look to the show,” said Suteesak. “The audiences will see marigolds, the King’s flower, and the vetiver grass he used to protect the land from flooding and drought.
“The dancers will be dressed in beautiful outfits designed by Tube Gallery, which blend the modern with classic Thai costumes,” he added.