The city of Mandalay in central Burma is famous for its traditional dance performance.
The Anyeint Pwe, a combination of traditional dance with comedy, was popular over the country.
Fourty years ago, Mandalay had 40 travelling troupes performing this ancient arts; today it has just four.
In a rare performance of Anyeint Pwe in the city, thousands of people have turned to see this performance of A-Nyeit Pwe, a mixture of dance and comedy.
30-year-old Toe Toe is one of the stars of the show.
His parents didn’t want him to become a performer and he has no formal training.
“At the start, I asked lady dancers for make-up. Later this didn’t work because people didn’t want to share their make-up. So I started being a comedian becuase that didn’t require much make-up.”
Now he’s a famous local comedian.
“I used to watch these performances when I was young. I like the part when comedians make a joke,” says 38-year-old Ma Aye Aye Khaing, a mother of three, who is excited to see his performance.
Also in the crowd is NGO worker Ma Nay Nwe Win.
“We need to maintain our traditional culture.”
Many people in Burma prefer to watch television.
20-year-old shopkeeper Moe Moe Thu Zar says it’s easier to understand. “I like modern entertainment,” he says.
Troupes are struggling to survive.
Under the former military government, many performances were banned. And well-known comedian U Chit Sayar says troupes still need to get permission from the government to perform.
“Now, everything is changing but official habitual doesn’t not change. When we ask permission from the government, they ask us to inform the fire department, health department, police force, etc. At the same time, corruption is a problem. We have to give them more than we earn so it’s not worthwile.”
He is worried that the art form will disappear...
“We have found a way to save this declining trend. We hold a competition and broadcast it live to the people. Many youn performers call us saying they want to join the competition. It’s a good sign.”
Young performers like Toe Toe are committed to keeping the art form alive.
“I know I won’t be rich by doing this job but it is my hobby. I will do this job until I die. I hope people will support my performance.”
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