Northern Thai Dance

4-7The word fonrefers to the style of performance specific to the North, a style influenced by nearby cultures and people. In the reign of the Rama VI, the Princess Dara Rasmi, queen to King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and daughter of Intawichayanon, ruler of Chiang Mai, made the effort to compile the styles of Northern Thai dance and modernize their costumes.

In his summary of dance in North Thailand, Teacher Songsak Prangwatthanakun, lecturer in the Thai Language and Humanities at Chiang Mai University organizes Northern Thai dance into 5 types:

1. Dances deriving from the veneration of spirits, involving traditional beliefs and rituals.
2. The mueang dances which derive from the local Northern Thai folk or Yuan people, the majority ethnic group that lived in unity in the ancient Lanna Kingdom (the kingdom of North Thailand).
3. The maan style dance which in the Northern language means “Burmese.” This style is a mixture of dance techniques of both Myanmar and North Thailand.
4. The Ngiaow style of the Tai Yai people (Northern Thai people call the Tai Yai ethnicity, “ngiaow,” while the Tai Yai people call themselves, “Tai”).
5. The style of dance that appears in traditional Thai dramatic plays.
This style is a creative blend of dances popular during the reign of Rama V.

The Northern style of dancing originated in the religious ceremonies for holy relics, where, at first, the choreography was performed spontaneously out of playful joy. It can be seen that the Northern style of dance is a striking and unique feature of the Lanna people revealing a gentle and soothing manner beneath their religious beliefs and faith.

And so altogether these various forms of dance create a world that enchants and fascinates all travelers who make their way to North Thailand.