Zat Pwe Music and Dance from Myanmar
Introduced by Kit Young, artistic advisor and founder, Gitameit Music Center, Myanmar
organized by the Asia Society Performing Arts Program, with additional support from the Asian Cultural Council and the New York State Council on the Arts. Yale performance presented in collaboration with the Department of Religious Studies with support from the Lex Hixon Fund.
One of Myanmar’s most revered traditional performing arts troupes, Shwe Man Thabin, an 18-member company of dancers, comedians, singers and musicians will be hosted by Asia Society on a tour to the United States. Shwe Man Thabin will present an abbreviated, 90-minute Myanmar (Burmese) traditional Zat pwe, ordinarily an all-night performance combining dance, theatre, song and music. This is a rare glimpse into an extraordinary art form, still little known outside its native land. The Shwe Man Thabin troupe is the last continuously performing family private troupe in Myanmar and was lauded in 2013 with national recognition celebrating its 80th anniversary.
A highly stylized form with a classical legacy that at the same time easily embraces innovations reflecting contemporary sensibilities, Zat pwe performances coincide with Buddhist pagoda festivals and ceremonies and are popular throughout the country. The rigorously trained dancers, singers, and clowns are accompanied by a live percussion and gong ensemble known as the Hsaing Wang, which can be lyrical, stately, and melodic or accelerate into dizzyingly fast tempos and suddenly stop . The dance and the music together offer an exhilarating experience, defying expectations of symmetry or steady tempo. The dancers are elaborately dressed, with flowered headdresses, pearl chokers, floral garlands and long pink skirts with gleaming threads. The dance, with precisely angled limbs, elegantly smooth at times and wildly acrobatic at others, can seem to imitate a marionette, or be just plain slapstick. A highlight of the performance is a short dramatization from one of the Jataka tales, which tell the stories of the earlier reincarnations of the Buddha.
The Shwe Man Thabin troupe promises to offer an enticing glimpse into the heritage of one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cultures. Heirs to an artistic lineage that stretches back through the centuries, yet effortlessly contemporary in their approach, the members of Shwe Man Thabin are a living link to Myanmar’s rich past, who also ensure that this legacy of court and popular folk traditions will be an integral component of Myanmar’s future.