One Asia in Dance

Khon Masked Dance


Insawang Suphachai
Date of Performance
Nov 26, 2010
· Representative masked dance of Thailand
·Performed by male dancers in the palace
Artistic director
Insawang SuphachaiThai Arts major at Department of Thai Performing Culture and Arts, Bandipattanasilpa University (1995-1997). Thai Dance major at Yensong University (1993-1995). Performances at the Thai Department of Performing Culture and Arts (1997-present). Participated in the 76th National Day of Malaysia (2004). Participated in the 23rd Universiade, Izmir, Turkey (2006). Cultural performance in India (2008). Cultural performances in France and Japan (2009).
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Khon masked dance is the most iconic of Thai masked dances. It is characterized by impressive visuals that span various genres of art, from the elaborate embroidery on the costumes to highly detailed props such as masks and swords made by master craftsmen. Traditionally, Khon masked dance was performed only in the royal court and enjoyed by male members of the royalty. It is performed by over 100 masked dancers, a narrator who explains the plot of the play, a large piphat (traditional Thai musical ensemble comprising string instruments and percussions), and a chorus.

The content and theme of the Khon dance is based on the Ramikien, a Thai adaptation of the Ramayana (2nd century BC), one of the two major Indian epics. According to the Khmer dictionary, the word ‘khon’ means role play. Dancers act out the narration silently. Major characters include the prince (the hero), princess, giant and monkey. Only the giant and the monkey wear masks. As the dancer’s every movement has to fit the role perfectly, Khon dancers have to be trained from a very young age.