The writing of this blog has taken me on a compelling and fascinating journey into the outer reaches of the internet. I am always amazed at what people are prepared to share and take the time to develop and post.
However, yesterday I struck gold for everyone who has interest in, or needs to have a working knowledge of, Asian performance traditions. It is a vastly illustrated web-based text book, an introduction to Asian theatre and dance traditions and so far covers India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Korea, and Japan. Click the image below to enter this exceptional web-site.
A couple of quotes that stood out for me:
The interrelatedness of drama, dance and music
In Asia drama, dance and music are inseparable. In the European performing arts, on the other hand, they developed their own ways. Thus in the West we talk about text-dominated “spoken theatre”, music-dominated “opera”, and dance-dominated “ballet”.
Most of the traditional forms of Asian performing art combine drama, dance and music into a kind of whole in which it is difficult to draw a clear borderline between these art forms. Most of the Asian traditions employ either dance or dance-like, stylised movements, while movements are frequently interwoven with text. In addition to this, most of the traditions are characterised by their own specific musical styles or genres. The acting technique, which employs dance-like body language, is usually very intricate and it demands many years of arduous training, as western ballet technique, for example, does. Therefore in Asia it is simply not possible to classify stage arts as nonverbal “dance” or “spoken theatre”.
The Interaction between “Living Theatre” and Puppet Theatre
In Asia, puppet theatre and one of its variations, shadow theatre, are often regarded as valued “classical” traditions, whereas in the western tradition puppet theatre is, with only a few exceptions, regarded merely as children’s entertainment.
In Asia there are dozens of important forms of puppet theatre. One could generalise that shadow theatre usually represents the early strata of puppetry with a long history and religious or magical connotations. In shadow theatre the silhouette-like figures are often cut from leather or other transparent or semi-transparent materials and they are seen through a cloth screen while manipulated by one or more puppeteers.
The interaction of puppet theatre and “living theatre” is one of the characteristics of Asian theatrical traditions. There will be several clear examples in this book of how puppet theatre has influenced the structure, acting technique and other conventions of “living theatre” and vice versa.
The main person to thank for this incredible resource, who is the editor and main writer, is Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen, a lecturer at the Theatre Academy and Helsinki University in Finland and Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand.