RANGOON — A favorite traditional performance of Burma’s former dictator, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, is set to perform at the opening ceremony of the SEA Games in December.
The Kyaukse Elephant Dance, from Than Shwe’s hometown, features two men taking their places inside a huge elephant figure made from bamboo and paper and dancing to the rhythmic beat of drums.
A total of 80 elephant dancers from Kyaukse will take part in the opening ceremony of the SEA Games, to be held on Dec. 11 in Naypyidaw. They will spend two months rehearsing in the capital for the performance, says Win Tin, who is leading the performance group.
“Than Shwe is a great fan of the Elephant Dance,” said Win Tin. The team performed for the former senior general several times when he visited Kyaukse, a provincial town that lies 50 km south of Mandalay, during his time in power.
“We were invited to perform at the opening ceremony with other traditional ethnic dances and Burmese sport dances like chinlone,” said Win Tin. “It’s a chance for us to reveal our traditional elephant dancing at an international level ceremony.”
The team has 40 big papier-mâché elephant costumes, 80 men to dance and 20 men for assistance.
“We will have to rehearse twice a day from October to November and we are now making the best dummy elephants using the best bamboos and papers,” said Thu Ra, the leader of Aye Yar Won elephant dancing group, which is part of the team.
Nu Nu Sein, an assistant professor and head of the department of dramatic art at the Rangoon Art and Culture University, told The Irrawaddy that the Kyaukse Elephant Dance is one of the most famous performances in Burma.
“It is wonderful to see a dummy elephant with two men inside who are trying to dance like a real elephant,” she said.
The opening ceremony of the 2013 Sea Games will use 8,000 people for its performances. The SEA Games is a biennial multi-sport event involving participants from all 11 countries of Southeast Asia.
“The Kyaukse Elephant Dancers were chosen in accordance with the instructions of the President’s Office as it is unique among all Burmese traditional dances,” said Khin Maung Lwin, joint general secretary of Myanmar Olympic Committee.