Dance in Thailand is the main dramatic art form of Thailand. Thai dance, like many forms of traditional Asian dance, can be divided into two major categories that correspond roughly to the high art (classical dance) and low art (folk dance) distinction.
Although the traditional performing arts are not as vibrant as they once were, suffering inroads by western entertainments and generally changing tastes, Thai dance drama is not extinct. What survives displays the elegance of an art form refined over centuries and supported by regal patronage.
The Thais reputedly first acquired a dance troupe when, in AD 1431, they conquered the ancient Khmer capital of Angkor and took as part of their spoils an entire corps de ballet. Dancers whose performances had once been seen as a symbolic link between nature, earth and the realm of the gods.
Aside from folk and regional dances (southern Thailand’s Indian-influenced manohra dance, for example), the two major forms of Thai classical dance drama are khon and lakon nai. In the beginning both were exclusively court entertainments and it was not until much later that a popular style of dance theater, Likay, evolved as a diversion for the common folk who had no access to royal performances.