Liv­ing her­itage in down­town Yan­gon

Grad­u­ates of the Na­tional Univer­sity of Art and Cul­ture in Man­dalay per­formed tra­di­tional songs and dances at a newly re­stored her­itage build­ing on the cor­ner of Merchant and 39th streets over the week­end.

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MORE like birds than hu­mans, the royal young lovers flut­tered and preened. Show­ing their af­fec­tion through the tra­di­tional Shan Kain Nari dance, the duet­tists were per­form­ing, to the mu­sic of a harp, at a house at the cor­ner of Merchant and 39th streets in Yan­gon. The July 10 event took place in a home ren­o­vated ear­lier this year by Turquoise Moun­tain in part­ner­ship with Yan­gon Her­itage Trust. The sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment NGO, which has re­stored and re­built around 112 his­toric build­ings in Kabul, Afghanistan, was in­vited by Na­tional League for Democ­racy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 2014 with hopes of en­abling sim­i­lar work. Yan­gon’s 189 of­fi­cially des­ig­nated her­itage build­ings are fer­tile ground for the ar­ti­sanal restora­tion that Turquoise Moun­tain of­fers.

The dance event rep­re­sents the cul­tural and com­mu­nity as­pects of the project. The Prince and Princess, U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe, each per­formed a sin­gle dance, with ac­com­pa­ny­ing songs.

The Prince was played by Ko Wai Yan Aung, a grad­u­ate of tra­di­tional dance from the Na­tional Univer­sity of Art and Cul­ture Man­dalay. He has gone on to per­form and coach Myan­mar tra­di­tional dancers.

“The Kain Nari dance has many mean­ings and many ver­sions. It can be seen as a tale from his­tory, but later ver­sions can be in­ter­preted in ways to suit the mod­ern era,” he said.

Much as Ko Wai Yan Aung loves tra­di­tional dance, the pay is not enough to make it a full-time job.

“I danced in front of many for­eign­ers and was glad to share our tra­di­tional dance. But de­spite the ex­cel­lence of my univer­sity tu­ition, I never felt I knew enough about it,” he said, half-apol­o­gis­ing for not pro­vid­ing a more de­tailed back­ground.

Event or­gan­iser Anna Livia Cul­li­nan said more per­for­mances were planned for the same venue, and train­ing in tra­di­tional dance could also be or­gan­ised for any­one want­ing to learn more.

The house ren­o­va­tion project em­ployed 250 artisans and builders. The apart­ment com­plex now boasts mod­ern con­ve­niences, elec­tric­ity, san­i­ta­tion and wa­ter sup­ply after decades of de­cay.

‘The Kain Nari dance has many mean­ings and many ver­sions. It can be seen as a tale from his­tory, but later ver­sions can be in­ter­preted in ways to suit the mod­ern era.’ Ko Wai Yan Aung, dancer

PHOTO: AUNG MYIN YE ZAW

Pho­tos: Aung Myin Yezaw

Ko Wai Yan Aung, left, dances along­side Ma Khin La Pyae Wun at the tra­di­tional dance event held at Turquoise Moun­tain’s first com­pletely re­stored her­itage build­ing on Merchant Street and 39th Street.

Nan­dar Zaw Win, cen­ter, prac­tices on the harp as Ko Wai Yan Aung, left, and Ma Khin La Pyae Wun, right, ad­just their cos­tumes.

Ko Wai Yan Aung said he stud­ied dance at the Na­tional Univer­sity for Art and Cul­ture in Man­dalay. He per­formed the Kain Nari dance, which tells the story of a prince and princess fall­ing in love.

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