Breaking Gender Barriers: Sisters Challenge Norms as Female Performers of Male Role in Thai Masked Dance

Explore the captivating story of two sisters who fearlessly embrace the role of "Khon," defying expectations and gender norms by breathing new life into traditional Thai performing arts

Supreewan and Toknawan Noipuk, two talented sisters from Thailand, have defied traditional gender roles and captivated audiences with their unique portrayal of the giant character in the "Khon" masked dance drama. Frequently questioned about their choice, these attractive and skilled women have shared their passion for the role and the reasons behind their decision.

Toknawan, known as Pop, discovered her love for "Khon" at a young age while practising Thai dancing and performance arts. Watching her male classmates enjoy performing as "Khon," she became enamoured with the character and desired to take on the role herself. Despite the traditional male representation, Pop's bold personality and determination led her to pursue her dream. She found the giant character, which combines beauty, grace, and fierceness, which was much more exciting and challenging than the elegant Thai dance she had been practising.

Pop's opportunity to portray the giant came when a senior approached her at the age of 17 and offered her the chance to learn the role. Proudly accepting the offer, she became one of the first women to play the part, breaking gender barriers and paving the way for other aspiring female performers.

Supreewan, also known as Pang, was inspired by her sister's dedication and passion for the giant character. Intrigued by the idea of a woman embodying such a powerful role traditionally reserved for men, Pang followed in her sister's footsteps and joined the world of the masked dance at the age of 19. When questioned about her choice, Pang confidently expressed her admiration for the giant's complex personality—a combination of beauty and fearlessness.

Playing the giant presents unique challenges, particularly in terms of power and physique, as it requires physical strength and the ability to lift other characters, like the monkey roles, during certain scenes. The sisters acknowledge the importance of rigorous practice to perfect these demanding aspects of the performance. They train alongside male performers, learning intricate footwork, knee-slapping techniques, and the essence of the giant's character—boldness combined with sensitivity.

Their dedication and talent have not gone unnoticed, as the sisters have had the privilege of performing alongside Thailand's national artist, Kru Toi Jattuporn. The experience has further solidified their commitment to "Khon" and the significant role it plays in their lives.

Through their remarkable performances, Supreewan and Toknawan Noipuk continue to bring the giant character to life. By breaking stereotypes and pushing boundaries, these two attractive women have become trailblazers, inspiring others to challenge traditional gender roles and pursue their passion. The art of "Khon" has become an integral part of their lives, and their love for the craft shines through every captivating performance.