Myan­mar dance ‘at a cross­roads’ as new pro­gram launches in Man­dalay

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - PHYO WAI KYAW phy­owaikyaw@mm­

KEEP­ING the old arts alive, and help­ing to re­store Man­dalay as a city of artists and per­form­ers, a new theatre and school for tra­di­tional danc­ing have been launched on 58th Street, be­tween 29th and 30th streets, said gen­eral man­ager U Tun Tun.

The In­nwa School and Minthar theatre will op­er­ate in tan­dem, with pro­ceeds from the theatre fund­ing ed­u­ca­tion for dancers who will, even­tu­ally, per­form there. U Tun Tun says plans are in place to move the ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­ity to its new lo­ca­tion from tem­po­rary premises it has oc­cu­pied since June.

“We’ve ac­cepted 13 stu­dents to learn dances for performing at the theatre,” he said in an in­ter­view with The Myan­mar Times. “The pur­pose of the school is to keep alive the an­cient Myan­mar art of zattha­ban [tra­di­tional per­for­mances]. This will help en­cour­age con­tin­ued in­ter­est in Myan­mar art even as in­ter­est in mod­ern dance grows.”

For K4000, pa­trons can buy their way into Minthar Theatre, which is to be open ev­ery night. Get­ting into the school, how­ever, will be a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult: Only 20 stu­dents will be ac­cepted for the two-year course, set to be­gin anew in June 2017. Ap­pli­cants should be aged be­tween 10 and 20, and those from re­mote or ru­ral ar­eas are wel­come to ap­ply as well – board and lodg­ing will be pro­vided by the Arts Man­dalay Foun­da­tion.

Daniel Ehrlich, the foun­da­tion’s gen­eral di­rec­tor, said in­ter­na­tional donors had con­trib­uted to the school. “I ar­rived in Myan­mar in 1987 and have seen zattha­ban. I con­sider it to be a valu­able art, and for the past three years I’ve been think­ing about how to pre­serve it.”

His ru­mi­na­tions led to the re­al­i­sa­tion that, more than any­thing, a proper ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem needed to be set up in or­der to keep new gen­er­a­tions abreast of the tech­niques. Found­ing a school in Man­dalay, the cul­tural foun­da­tion of Myan­mar, is an at­tempt to res­ur­rect the city as a base for artists.

“Myan­mar dance was fa­mous in the past, but many peo­ple have for­got­ten its value,” he said. “There is a risk it might dis­ap­pear over the next 10 years if there are not enough skilled teach­ers.”

U Tun Tun said state shows had re­placed such tra­di­tional dances as the song-and-dance duet (nha par thwar) and the tragic scene lun khan that formed part of the zattha­ban. “Myan­mar dance is at a cross­roads,” he said. In 1985, more than 30 anyeint (non-dra­matic per­for­mances) would be per­formed in Man­dalay, but only three can still be seen. – Trans­la­tion by San Layy

Photo: Phyo Wai Kyaw

Stu­dents at In­nwa School re­hearse their rou­tines at Minthar Theatre in Man­dalay, a re­cently opened arts ini­tia­tive to pre­serve Myan­mar’s tra­di­tional dances.

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