Mae Tha Yak is the set of basic poses, steps and movements for exercise and practice by the dancers who perform the demon role. Mae Tha Yak comprises the preliminary poses that begin from the Tha Nang Wai to Tha Bak - this is called Hua Mae Tha or Krabuan Mae Tha Ton Ton - before proceeding to the Basic Pose Number 1 and so on to the Basic Pose Number 5.
Mae Tha Yak is the standard practice for Khon dancers. Khon has been the Thai classical genre of the performing art since the Ayutthaya era. The present-day method of practice was handed down from the masters of the royal Khon troupe in the Department of Entertainments during King Rama VI’s reign. It begins with the preliminary exercises: Top Khao, Thong Sa-eo, Ten Sao, and Thip Liam. It then proceeds to the Mae Tha, Tha Choet and Tha Pathom. These are the rudimentary poses, steps and movements used for exercise and practice and also used in performances. The students must remember well and correctly what the teacher taught and must practice repeatedly for years. The dance master will adapt these rudimentary poses, steps and movements to fit well with each student’s physique and character and will oversee that the students practice repeatedly until they acquire the skill and are ready for public performance.
Mae Tha Yak is undeniably the intellectual heritage from the Khon dance masters who specialized in the demon role. The basic poses, steps and movements that comprise the Mae Tha Yak are graceful and reflect the superhuman power, strength and fierceness of the demons, who symbolize the evil force. Mae Tha Yak is therefore a truly important cultural legacy in the Khon performance, which shows the identity of Thailand’s art of dance.