Dying Art Forms


These are 5 art forms that are currently performed in Asia but are predicted to be extinct within the next hundred years due to lack of interest from young people, lack of audience and several other factors. Some of these factors include language barriers making it impossible for the "masters" of these trades to pass on their skills fully to their protegees. I'm going to do my best to fully explain to you the "awesomeness" that are these dying art forms. I've seen 4 out of 5 in person and they are pretty amazing. I hate to think of a time when they'll only be available on video footage.


1. Cantonese Opera
People have been talking about Cantonese Opera going bust for a while. One, the Cantonese dialect is not so widely used as  Mandarin and Peking Operas are much more widely renowned. When I attend Cantonese Operas in town I'm normally the youngest person in the audience (with the exception of the couple of grandkids you can tell were dragged against their will).  I love the sound of Cantonese Opera. It's very easy to understand. It reminds me of Commedia d'ell arte. Once you understand the character archetype you know the character. Yes, they're often times predictable but you don't go to be "wowed" by the story. You go for the costumes, the makeup and the singing. I love the sound of Cantonese Operas. I know some people hate it. In order for this art form to keep going, it's going to need extensive support from the government and the youth of Hong Kong to re-invent it.


2. Butoh (Japan)
Butoh is one of the rarest forms of theatre and dance in Japan. It's a transitory experience where the performer puts their body into a state of shock and is able to control all forms of function. They can control the way their sweat flows down their body, they can go without blinking for an hour. To see a Butoh show is an intense experience. It's not for kiddies or people who are looking for a good time. It's a weird mixture between physical theatre and dance, it's the Dadaism of Japan. Oftentimes performed nude or with little clothing on by companies of almost entirely men, you must study Butoh for years to even be allowed upon the stage. Masters of Butoh are born into it. They study it from the time they're kids. Women also are not allowed to study it and you must be from Japan to study at the schools that train in it. It's a phenomenal art form but in order for it to continue being great they are going to have to open up the club further and allow other people to study it.


3. Indian Folk Dance
We all love Indian dance in Bollywood movies but this is actually the reason why Indian folk dance is having such trouble surviving. Modern day kids in India don't want to study the folk dances of their region;  they want to study the dances they see in movies and TV. Because of this, folk dance styles from the southern region in India are in danger of dying out because they have no students to teach it to. They are holding workshop forums on YouTube to get foreigners involved in the art forms so that they don't die out completely. Which I think is a pretty cool thing to do.


4. Khmer Dance (Cambodia)
I saw Khmer as part of the Asia Pacific Dance Platform three years ago. I'm still in awe of what these girls can do with their hands and feet. It's like their fingers have no joints in them! Khmer is a religous dance in Cambodia that is used in ceremonial presentations. Due to lack of interest in people participating in the ceremonies, there have been less students involved in learning the dances and teachers are concerned about the dances dying out.

5. Sundee Dance (Taiwan)
Sundee is the aboriginal dance brought out of the lower mountain regions of Taiwan. You can see it at festivals near Kaoshing in Chunying during the New Year but very rarely is it brought out of the small villages. This is because it's a very unique style of Chinese dance that is passed down from family member to family member. Each family has a different way of interpreting the music. Also the dancers may only perform with musicians from their own family. Being that it's such a close guarded art form, it is likely that fewer and fewer people are going to learn how to play the music for Sundee and thus the dance forms for it. I can totally understand the village wanting to keep traditions alive but they are going to have to relax the rules a bit for the dance form to continue. If things keep going the way they are going it is safe to say that this form of dance will be gone within the next hundred years.



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