The salient pattern of northern Thai performing arts is the Fon (Dance), a dancing art performed by pairs of dancers. On important occasions, there could be hundreds of dancers performing the Fon in spectacular symmetry. The dancers are selected from pretty girls, and are dressed in multi-coloured clothes typical of the region. The Fon is a slow and stately dance. Its magnificence comes from the beauty of the dresses and the perfect unisonof the movements.
The Fon has been in existence for hundreds of years, especially at the northern royal court, but now roupes have been formed to perform at temples which often act as benefactors and sponsors, thus keeping the tradition alive. The music accompaniment uses traditional northern Thai instruments, including gongs. Many variations of Fon are performed. The Fon Thian (Candle Dance) is done at night in the open with the performers holding a candle in each hand.
The dancers move along, and the candles are visible as a graceful display of light, in addition to illuminating the beauty of the costumes and faces of the dancers, providing a sum total of a uniquely northern Thai art form—that of “graceful beauty in a candle-lit setting”.
The Fon Lep (Dance of the Long Fingermails) is similar, in regard of manner and occasion, to the above Fon Thian, except that the dancers wear six-inch long brass nails, and the performance is often held during the daytime. The Fon Man Mongkhon is a beautiful dance, a blend of northern and central Thai arts, with some adaptation from Burmese art (northern Thailand has a long history of cultural association with Burma) which results in a quickening of tempo.
Each dancer puts on a long floor - length traditional Thai skirt, with a short long-sleeve blouse crossing down just below the waist, and a knee-length long scarf. The hair of the dancer is partly wrapped into a central knot and partly flowing down to the left shoulder. Fresh flowers are attached to the hairdo, the total combination being one of well- rounded beauty and grace which is very pleasing to the eye. This dance is performed on all festive occasions.