Dance artist

Contemporary Dance Artist Pakhamon “Much” Hemachandra

Pakhamon “Much” Hemachandra talks about becoming a modern dancer, the burgeoning Thai contemporary dance scene, and her own participation in this year’s Unfolding Kafka festival.

(Hero image: a scene from “Hermaphrodite”, a collaboration with Sun Tawalwongsri – photo by Andrea Hallgren)

Pakhamon “Many” Hemachandra (photo by Pataraporn Hemachandra)

Now in its 4th edition, the Unfolding Kafka Festival remains one of the most forward-thinking contemporary art festivals in Thailand. Through dance, film, visual art, and more, the grotesque, angst-filled universe of Franz Kafka is evoked – where dark, surreal scenarios collide with the real world. This year’s festival, which runs from November 3-27, brings together 12 international artists, from multiple backgrounds, to share their diverse approaches to conceptual creation.

Performances, exhibitions, screenings and workshops will take place at various venues, including Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music, The Peninsula Bangkok, Jim Thompson Art Center, Lido Connect, Hostbkk and Alliance Française Bangkok. And alongside the participating international modern dancers – talents such as Victor Černicky, James Batchelor and Alexandre Fandard – artistic director Jitti Chompee is a star performer, as is Bangkok-born modern dancer Pakhamon “Much” Hemachandra.

Pakhamon “Many” Hemachandra in action (photo by Pataraporn Hemachandra)

How long have you been involved in the contemporary dance scene?

I have been involved in contemporary dance for over a decade now. I trained in ballet and jazz, but I know my body type is not good for ballet. I’m tall enough, even for Asian women in general. But I went to do an exchange in Australia, with a young contemporary dance company, and I said to myself, contemporary is more inclusive…all body types. I thought, “I want to pursue this,” because I love dancing. For university I chose to go to Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne from 2009. We studied dance but also anatomy, kinesiology and psychology in terms of performance management . Even budget writing for grant proposals. After Melbourne, I went to the London Contemporary Dance School for my Postgraduate Diploma and Masters and toured with the company in Europe. But I had a knee injury and had to come back to Thailand in 2014. I recovered for a year and a half and then started working more independently – both locally and internationally.

‘The Room’ a collaboration with Sun Tawalwongsri (photo by Pataraporn Hemachandra)

Is there a lot of modern/contemporary dance scene in Thailand right now?

I think now there are a lot more but when I came back to Thailand it was about just Pitcher [Klunchun] and Jitti [Chompee]. It’s a small community, but now I think there are a lot more. He is growing slowly. I also think that, especially with the political movements and everything, performance art has changed that scene a lot. Many young talents want to project their work through art, using their body as their voice.

In the film ‘Siamese Futurism’ by Montika Kham-On

How did you come to take part in this year’s Unfolding Kafka festival?

I heard about Jitti from another dancer, and when I came back to Thailand he introduced me. It was during Jitti’s first Unfolding Kafka festival, so I was there to join the workshops and watch the performances. But this is the first year that I have been part of it as a performer.

Australian dancer/choreographer James Batchelor

You are in duo with Australian dancer/choreographer James Batchelor on November 19 and 20. Can you tell us more about the work and the preparation?

It’s going to be an intensive week during which James will be there to rehearse. In fact, he just created the job last week [mid-October]. The piece is called “Shortcuts to Familiar Places”, and it’s about James tracing his lineage through his childhood dance teacher Ruth Osborne. It is in fact the director of the company of the young people with whom I made the exchange. I know James personally, having met him during my studies in Australia, and worked with him a few times. He is very open, but he knows what he wants. There is a choreography that I need to learn and perfect, but I’m pretty sure he will also adjust it to fit the space. It’s playing at the new Jim Thompson Art Center, and we start rehearsals on the 14th.

“Many young talents want to project their work through art, using their body as a voice”

What does the term “competitive advantage” mean to you?

I always try to be in tune with what’s going on right now, and I always try to be really versatile. I don’t want to be just one thing. I want there to be different versions of me, and to be able to adapt. So the competitive advantage is knowing what I have in my toolbox. This project with James, for example, I ask myself ‘what do I have to bring to achieve what it takes?’. Or, if I wear different hats, like if I’m a producer or if I’m a teacher, what kind of knowledge do I need then. It’s about knowing my toolboxes and creating many toolboxes.