The Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center was the most popular place for tourists to see traditional Thai dancing. The dancing was set to live music. The dancers wore traditional clothing, and their fingers were fitted with super-long nail extensions. The fingernail dance, called fawn-lep in Thai, originated in northern Thailand. That’s about the extent of the historical aspects I know about the dance.
Some people cringed at the appearance of the fingernail extensions. But when watching this dance, it was obvious to see how the fingernails worked with the hand movements. While moving their hands, the dancers held their fingers in an outward curving position. The long nails extended and greatly accentuated the curved appearance of the hands and fingers. The effect at times created an optical illusion, as if the dancers’ hands and fingers were curving in a way that defied normal physiology.
The best part of the performance at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center came at the end. After the final performance, the dancers stepped off the stage and went out into the audience. They approached audience members and asked if they’d like to dance on the stage. They did this twice, to give as many people as possible a chance to try the dance. Thanks to the shyness of the crowd, I was able to go to dance on the stage twice. Both times I was led by the same adorable Thai dancer.