The Arts

Accolade for Nora Dance

Nora Dance designated a Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage

Thailand’s traditional southern dance form, known as Nora, has been declared a Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for 2021.

Nora stands out among the various folk dance disciplines in Thailand for its colourful evocative costumes, lively music and unique, almost acrobatic dance movements with angular arm positions. Various elements of the costume help to highlight a bird-like appearance, from the wings tied around the waist, the “hang hong” or swan tail as well as the long, curved metallic finger extensions. Accessories include a pointed headdress that is a variation of the classical “chada” headdress. The music is fast-paced, led by a traditional southern oboe providing the melody, and drums, gongs, cymbals and wooden clappers providing the strong rhythms.

It is very much a community-based dance form, with a number of southern lineages carrying on the tradition and passing on the heritage to younger generations. The performances are usually based on stories about the former lives of Buddha or about legendary heroes. Most popular is the legend of the prince who fell in love with, and rescued, Manohra, the mythical creature that is half-human half-bird. Nora can either be performed for ritualistic purposes or for entertainment, in which case there is often a comic interlude with the characters in normal clothes and masks.

According to Nora Master Thummanit Nikomrat, perfect Nora postures should be:

1. Highly arched back and open chest, bent knees, long neck and raised chin.

2. During the dance moves, the upper body must remain still, and the face follows the hand positions.

3. The entire body must be synchronized, with balance proportion between the arms, chest, neck, face, torso, waist, hips and knees.

4. The movements must show strength and agility.

There are 12 main poses, which can then be adapted to suit each individual dancer depending on his or her skill as designated by the master.

  • @National Archives of Thailand