A new gen­er­a­tion of dancers keeps the Kyaukse ele­phant dance fes­ti­val alive

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - SI THU LWIN

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

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

Ele­phant dancer daz­zle the au­di­ence in colour­ful, sparkling cos­tumes.

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