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Even as We Keep Trying: An Ethics of Interculturalism in Jérôme Bel's Pichet Klunchun and Myself


In 2004, Singaporean presenter Tang Fu Kuen commissioned French avant-garde choreographer Jérôme Bel to create a work in collaboration with classical Thai dancer-choreographer Pichet Klunchun. The resulting piece is unlike most intercultural collaborations. In the world of concert dance, East–West interculturalism takes place in a variety of ways: in costuming or set design, in theme or subject matter, in choreographic structure, in stylings of the body, in energetic impetus, in spatial composition, in philosophical attitude toward art making. Bel's work, titled Pichet Klunchun and Myself, does not combine aesthetics in any of these ways. In fact, the piece may more accurately be described not as a dance but as two verbal interviews (first by Bel of Klunchun and then vice versa) performed for an audience and separated by an intermission. There is no actual intermingling of forms—Thai classical dance with European contemporary choreography—in this performance. The intercultural “choreography” here comprises a staged conversation between the artists and some isolated physical demonstrations by each.

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