Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dancin' Machines

Our kind hosts sent us to Changlimithang Stadium to watch the dress rehearsal for Saturday's cultural activities celebrating the Royal Wedding. We stood on the sidelines and watched thousands of Bhutanese in colorful costumes practice their moves. So many dancers, in fact, that I wondered who would be left in the stands to watch.

The groups consisted of schoolchildren, monks, professional dancers, college students and others who had volunteered to join the fun. A voice over a loudspeaker called them for their turn, first in Dzongkha and then in English, and with a musical cue, each group headed out on to the field to perform either a ritual dance or a folk dance or some combo of the two. The music the monks danced to sounded very ancient--horns and drums--while the folk dancers' music sounded more contemporary.

Here's one group awaiting its turn. Of course, almost all were dressed in khira and gho, but some of the most beautiful we've seen.

There were also plenty of costume flourishes based on traditional Bhutanese, Nepali and Tibetan clothing, like these totally funky boots worn by many men (and envied by many women...okay, one: me):

It was the monk dances that particularly stood out because of their elaborate costuming. Here's a shot of a hat worn by a monk, who I'm sure was happy to take it off after rehearsal (it was very hot and bright on the field):

The pictures, by the way, were taken by Betsy. We were told when we entered the stadium that no photos were allowed, so let the record show that this may be the first time I did what I was told and Betsy did not. See? I am not always the bad influence on her that some suspect.

We stayed for almost two hours, watching group after group, hoping to see the students from RTC, but when we were told we were only on the 9th group and they were 18th on the schedule, we opted to head into town for some lunch. Betsy said to Diwash, our guide, "The King must be very patient to sit for that long."

"Oh, he won't," Diwash replied. "He'll sit for a little while and then wander around in the crowd and greet people." We heard things like that from a lot of people. The King is known as a man of the people, enjoying an almost casual relationship with them. He is informal and apparently just loves to hang out with folks. Of course, this makes sense when you realize that his father retired from the job and now enjoys biking around greater Thimphu and driving himself in a Toyota Hi-Lux pickup truck. They're just your average family with a security detail.

Security for all wedding events, however, will be very tight due to a bombing in Phuentsholing, a southern Bhutanese town on the Indian border, yesterday. Apparently it is a restive area with some active militant groups. The wedding itself will take place in Punakha, about three hours north of Thimphu in the dzong, or fortress, of the town. That part will be very private, as it is the most sacred part of the wedding. After that, the King and Queen will visit several towns before returning to Thimphu for the dance marathon on Saturday. Whether they will join the crowd in a Bhutanese rendition of the Electric Slide is anyone's guess.

Today's schedule for us includes meetings the management staff and academic program directors here at RTC. Our afternoon is free, so we may visit some of our students' internship sites. They are spread out across Thimphu at places like the Jigme Sangyel Gross National Happiness Elementary School, Kuzoo FM (the national radio station) and an NGO working on waste management issues.

Thanks for tagging along.


1 comment:

  1. And so now that this is posted to the world...if one of you gets arrested for the picture taking and gets to extend her time in Bhutan, it will be Betsy! Were any of your students internships in jails so that she could get a preview?