Last month, I went to ThaiTown to celebrate Thai New Year and discover people who were passionate about Thai Dance. Known as the
“Biggest Cultural Event Outside Thailand”, the 8th annual Songkran Festival was packed with several entertainment stages, a Miss Thai New Year competition, Muay Thai Boxing, cultural booths, shopping and great food vendors. They blocked off Hollywood Blvd. between Western and Normandie for the 25,000 people said to have attended.
I first interviewed Sahava Tirabaedya of L.A. Twister, who is a fantastic performer and choreographer. While my main goal was to find “traditional” Thai dancers, Sahava and L.A. Twister are a great example of using dance and music to continue ethnic pride and heritage in a distant (the U.S.) country. Sahava told me that their dance and vocal group started out with traditional Thai roots, but as they started performing for more charity events they incorporated modern music and movements into their repertoire. His hip hop dance experience gives a dynamic and intriguing element to his contemporary choreographies. A born performer (or at least since age 6), Sahava and L.A. Twister are skilled performers that are equally ready for “the big time” or L.A.’s Little ThaiTown.
Mam and Faroh (pictured on left) both exhibit great pride in their Thai culture,
but not to the exclusion of others. Indeed, they both were very generous in talking to me in between their contemporary performance. Faroh and his team sing contemporary and national songs with frequent costume changes to keep the audience engaged. Both Faroh’s parents made costumes in Bangkok, but he learned on his own to create a plethora of unique and stage beautiful pieces. They told me that learning dance is open to people who are not Thai. They want everyone to learn about Thai culture, and “have fun with dancing (to be) happy all the time”. I’m grateful to witness as they spread their happiness.