A new generation of dancers keeps the Kyaukse elephant dance festival alive
SINCE the days of King Anawratha of Bagan, Kyaukse city upon Shwe Thar Lyaung hill has celebrated the elephant dance festival. Traditionally locals don a colourfully decorated, life-size elephant costume, welcoming the end of Thadingyut with a unique array of dance and acrobats.
Once an ancient tradition, it’s now a competition, and the past few years have seen dramatic increase of competitors, especially among children. The festival is held every year on the full moon day of Thadingut with a total of 29 elephants gracing the stage – 17 traditional, six sequined, and six baby elephants, according to the committee.
“Competitors have grown year by year. Many more children wish to compete and keep our traditional culture alive in Kyaukse,” an official of the elephant dance committee told The Myanmar Times. “The competition expenses are not small but we’ve scraped together enough each year.” Prizes are awarded to those who have participated in the three rounds around Kyaukse Myoma Market, dancing and banging a collection of short-and long-based drums.
Though the traditional elephant dance only garnered 20 competitors this year, the sequined elephant and baby elephant contest for children had almost 30.
Awards are given out to each distinct elephant group, for those that show the most convincing and traditional portrayal of the elephant dance. Winners get to take home a sum of cash prizes for their deft performances and hours of training.
First-place winners of the traditional elephant contest receive K1 milllion; second place, K 800,000; and third K600,000. Prizes are given out for the sequined and baby elephant competition as well, with financial support from the committee and KBZ bank. – Translation by Emoon
Elephant dancer dazzle the audience in colourful, sparkling costumes.