The Day Myanmar Lost Its Most Renowned Anyeint Dancer
By Wei Yan Aung 29 April 2019
On this day in 1945, one of the most celebrated Anyeint dancers in Myanmar’s history, Liberty Ma Mya Yin, passed away. She was the most famous dancer of the pre-World War II period, and was popular not only among ordinary people but also among the ruling elite, including the governor.
In the past it was customary for Myanmar communities to include Anyeint performances in ceremonial occasions such as novitiations. Liberty Ma Mya Yin was so popular that partial payment had to be made one year in advance to book her Anyeint troupe.
She was usually fully booked for the whole year and it was even said that donors could not choose the dates for their donation ceremonies, but had to organize them on the days when she was free.
Her fans included prominent figures of the colonial period such as colonial Burma’s only local governor, Sir J. A. Maung Gyi; police chief U Tun Hla Aung; and ICS U Chan Than, the Yangon Mayor.
Liberty Ma Mya Yin was imbued with both beauty and a fine voice. Her dancing and singing styles were distinct from her contemporaries, which her fans found captivating.
While there were no loudspeakers in her time, her voice could be clearly heard in open theaters housing audiences of more than 2,000 people. Though she had to sing daily, she never lost voice.
She later found success as a recording artist, putting out gramophone records.
Unlike some female Anyeint dancers, Liberty Ma Mya Yin was admired for not pandering to male patrons by performing seductive dances. Her original name was Ma Mya Yin; she was dubbed “Liberty” by her fans among college students who were advocating independence.
She died in 1945 of malaria, which she contracted while she fleeing the fighting during World War II. She was 42, and had worked as a dancer for 26 years