Mask Performance in Asia: Dance of Gods, Featuring Performances and an International Conference

Khon from Thailand ⓒ NIHC

The National Intangible Heritage Center (NIHC) under the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea will hold the Mask Performance in Asia: Dance of Gods on 4 and 5 October 2019. The event will feature performances by traditional mask dancers from Thailand and Bhutan as well as an international conference.

Khon from Thailand and Drametse Ngacham from Bhutan are the only ICH elements that each country has successfully inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Considered to be representative ICH of each country, both dances are protected and transmitted under the authority of royal courts. The upcoming event will invite the Office of the Performing Arts under the Thai Ministry of Culture and the Bhutanese Royal Academy of Performing Arts to present mesmerizing performances.

Drametse Ngacham from Bhutan ⓒ NIHC

Khon is a masked dance drama from Thailand, which is based on the national epic Ramakien or the founding myth of the country. The performers will appear as warriors, wearing glittering costumes and holding intricate masks and swords, to reenact scenes from the myth and demonstrate the elaborate skills of the court art. The Thai dance performance will be followed by Drametse Ngacham, a masked dance of drums from Drametse in eastern Bhutan. Traditionally practiced during Buddhist festivals, today it is a folk dance performed across the country. Bhutanese people believe that one must watch this performance at least once in his or her lifetime to receive blessings. Drametse Ngacham conveys Buddhist beliefs of eradicating evil and being touched by Buddha’s mercy and care. Sixteen dancers wearing animal masks perform a ritual dance and then execute twenty-one dance movements that express nine emotions, including joy, courage, and anxiety.

The event will also feature a joint performance by Thailand, Bhutan, and Korea to showcase some of the best scenes of traditional mask dance performances of each country. In Korea, the Hahoe Byeolsin Gut Mask Dance Preservation Society will collaborate with performers from the two other countries. Traditional masks from the three countries will be exhibited as well.

In addition, an international conference about the present and future of traditional mask dances in Asia will be held during the event. The conference will look at the safeguarding and transmission efforts of each country and talk about the present and future of mask dances in Korea.

For more information about the event, please check the event website or contact NIHC by phone.