If you're planning to visit Bangkok during a gap year with the aim of broadening your cultural awareness, you should certainly consider visiting the southern Asian country during September. This is when the month-long International Festival of Dance and Music takes place, and it is an unmissable event for locals and visitors alike.
First held in 1999, the festival is Thailand's largest annual event of its kind, and brings together all sorts of performers from countries like Russia, the Netherlands, France and Italy. Classical music, opera, ballet, jazz and contemporary shows are all part of the programme, which this year begins on September 10th and finishes on October 14th. Events will be held at the Thailand Cultural Centre in the Huai Khwang district across the various performing areas, including the amphitheatre, small hall and main hall.
Once you've completed your flight to Bangkok and settled into your accommodation, head to the centre and check out the shows scheduled to take place. September 10th and 11th will see performances given by the Ukraine's Virsky National Dance Company, which will be performing a folk style of ballet. Meanwhile, on September 12th, a group of seven guitar-wielding performers from France known as the Gipsy Kings will take to the stage. The troupe will showcase their unique act, which combines elements of Spanish, rumba, salsa and has been influenced by the members' Spanish Romany ancestry.
The next group to enter the limelight is Blaze, a group of 16 street dancers and break dancers from across the globe. Taking the limelight on September 14th and 15th, the act will perform a high-energy show with sets created by experts who have previously worked with the likes of Lady Gaga and Kanye West. A couple of days later, the cultural centre will play host to the renowned Indian classical dance firm Orissa Dance Company, which is known for its performance of the poem Ramayana.
Brazil's Quasar Dance Company will be next to entertain and is set to perform on September 19th. Dancers will move around a surreal set using unique body language and a selection of music. On the 21st, the Baltic National Dance Theatre of Poland will be treating spectators to their rendition of Rite of Spring alongside music by Stravinsky and performed by the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel Orchestra.
Italy's Spellbound Dance Company will be performing their interpretation of Vivaldi's Four Seasons on September 23rd, while on the 27th Russia's Chelyabinsk State Opera Theatre will be taking to the stage with their version of the romantic tragedy Carmen. The following day, the Chelyabinsk State Symphony Orchestra will showcase their talents with renditions of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture, The Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini for Piano and Orchestra by Rachmaninov and Dvorak's Symphony Number 9 From the New World, led by award-winning conductor Anton Grishanin.
The Chelyabinsk State Opera Theatre will entertain the crowds again on September 29th with a version of Madame Butterfly that has never been seen before in Thailand. October 2nd and 3rd also see theatrical performances take place, this time by Germany's Staatsballett Berlin, which will perform Swan Lake. Some 120 members make up the dance troupe and performers will be accompanied by a 72 musician-strong orchestra as they celebrate 150 years of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Germany.
On October 5th, the UK's contribution Planet Earth in Concert will be held in the form of a film with music showcasing a range of earth's elements, from the deserts of Africa to the Amazon Rainforest. The score by composer George Fenton has won a number of prestigious awards and the show has been performed to critical acclaim in the US; this will be its debut in Asia.
The Swiss illusionist Peter Marvey will unveil his skills on October 9th and 10th when he performs unbelievable tricks, many of which are world famous and award-winning, while the Limon Dance Company of New York will perform an all-star programme two days later demonstrating 60 years of dance to celebrate its 65th anniversary.
Bangkok's International Festival of Dance and Music will be brought to a close on October 14th by Argentina's Tango Legends, aka Mariela Maldonado and Pablo Sosa. The dancing duo are at the forefront of the industry and have developed the show to tell the story of the sensual dance form, alongside ten other performers.