Many cultures develop their traditional dance in response to their history and its importance to their culture. Thailand has several types of dances. Rum is the dance done by common people and requires very little training for public performance. It is done at New Year celebrations, funerals and during certain religious events. Children do not need to attend a separate school to learn this dance. It is a basic part of their culture.
Students that wish to study classical Thai dance must take advanced classes. Classical or high dances are always done by professionals that have years of training. There are more than a hundred basic postures that can be included in each classical Thai dance. This is because traditional dance tells a story about the characters portrayed. Thai dancers must learn to use their bodies to convey emotion as well as the character they are playing. This is one reason for the large number of basic positions that must be mastered.
Khon is one of the more popular traditional dances still performed in Thailand today. Those that practice it must spend hours perfecting each of the postures that are part of the dance. Once they have learned each one to perfection, they are able to audition for a part in a public performance. Attitude is just as important as size and skill when auditioning.
This type of dance is dramatic and tells a complete story. The actors on stage, up to 100 at a time, do not speak their roles. A chorus off to the side of the stage takes care of any speaking parts needed by the action. On stage, the dancers are masked. They must use their dance positions in proper configurations to tell the story of the work they are performing. This is one of the reasons it takes years to master this art before being allowed to perform in public.