Dance: Unwrapping Culture starts tomorrow

Vancouver, B.C.

Two renowned dancers unwrap their cultures

By Ted Alcuitas

Unwrapping Culture brings together two exceptional male dance artists: Vancouver’s own Alvin Erasga Tolentino, a Filipino-Canaddian, and Pichet Klunchun, an outstanding exponent of the Thai classical dance style of Khon.

Pichet is known internationally for contemporizing this ancient form.

Unwrapping Culture will start tomorrow, Wednesday, July 12 at Woodwards Heritage Bldg. on Hastings St. It will be on until July 14.

Show times and dates:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Friday, July 14, 2017 at 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Entrance: Next to Woodward’s Heritage Building lobby doors inside the Woodward’s Atrium

Tolentino and Klunchun uncluttering their cultures. (Photo: Chris Randle)

The dancers’ first collaboration combines the technique, theatricality and storytelling elements of Khon to create a devastating critique of the corruption of authentic Thai culture by the forces of commercialization, in a passionate and bitingly funny duet which immerses the audience in the conflict between traditional and modern.

Tolentino has been exploring cultural identity from the perspective of his Filipino-Canadian heritage for over a decade

Klunchun has caused uproar in his native Thailand with his explorations placing the revered art of Khon in a more contemporary context.

“Both Pichet and I have a strong interest in how cultures develop and change, for better or worse,” says Tolentino.

“This work is very different to anything I have done before – it’s loud, hard-hitting, satirical – but underneath we are asking serious questions about who owns and defines cultural heritage, and specifically about how Thailand’s traditional culture is being turned into a commodity.”

The performers share the stage with hundreds of cheap plastic toys and trinkets found in any Thai street market, and the audience moves freely around the space throughout the piece for a completely immersive experience.

Alvin Erasga Tolentino is renowned as an Asian/Canadian dance artist who continues to bring a fresh voice to the national and international dance scene as a choreographer, dancer, and teacher and designer. Born in Manila, Philippines, he moved to Canada in 1983 and trained at The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, York University‘s Fine Arts in Toronto, SUNY Purchase in the US, and the Limon Institute. Since 1989 Tolentino has worked as an interpreter for leading choreographers and dance companies including EDAM, Karen Jamieson Dance, Kinesis Dance, Kokoro Dance, Lola Dance and Mascall Dance. In 2000, Tolentino founded Co.ERASGA, a dance company dedicated to the research, creation and presentation of contemporary dance with an emphasis on exploration and collaboration with multi-media art and artists nationally and abroad. To date, he has created more than a dozen full-length works that includes SOLA (1998), BATO/Stone, (2001), VOLT (2002) and FIELD (2003), ORIENTIK/PORTRAIT (2005), BODYGlass with Peter Chin (2006/07), PARADIS (2008), ADAMEVE-Man/Woman (2009), Shadow Machine (2010) and EXpose with Uruguay’s Martin Inthamoussu (2011). His work has toured all over the world to countries including the Philippines, Japan, the USA, the Dominican Republic, France, Belgium, Croatia, Switzerland, Scotland, Singapore and Venezuela. In 2010, Tolentino was awarded the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for dance in recognition of his contributions to the field and to Vancouver’s cultural communities.

Pichet Klunchun trained in Thai Classical Mask Dance (Khon), from the age 16 with Chaiyot Khummanee, one of the best Khon masters in Thailand. After receiving his degree in Thai Classical Dance at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, he worked both as a dancer and choreographer at high-profile occasions including the opening and closing ceremonies of the Asian Games in 1998. He bridges traditional Thai Classical Dance language with a contemporary sensibility, and has earned domestic notoriety for his efforts in contemporising Khon.

In 2002 he travelled to the US where he studied contemporary dance, forming his own company on his return to Bangkok.

In 2004 he collaborated on Pichet Klunchun and Tolenitino with Jérôme Bel which has toured all over the world to great critical acclaim.

His company has also performed in the US at festivals including New York City’s Fall for Dance, Lincoln Center and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. In 2008 Klunchun won the European Cultural Foundation’s Princess Margriet Award for Pichet Klunchun and Tolentno: the award honors artists who push audiences to move beyond fear of cultural difference and the “other”. He has participated in several intercultural performing arts programs as a Thai representative and as an international dancer-choreographer in Asia and Europe.


Unwrapping Culture
Created and performed by Alvin Erasga Tolentino and Pichet Klunchun
Music I Love Thailand by Mocca Garden
Lighting design by Mark Eugster

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