Myanmar comic dance, U Shwe Yoe
Sometimes reminiscing about childhood memories can be really pleasant especially when you’re not satisfied with your present. In doing that, which part of your childhood is the most memorable one? For me, high-school days will always be the most favorite throwback. So let me flash back at those times of my high-school life.
I did high school in my beautiful hometown named Lashio, the capital of Northern Shan State in Myanmar. Shan Yoma Hills that lie along the town makes it a picturesque landscape with a cool and breezy weather.
Most of the people that live here are not Burmese but Shans, one of many ethnic groups in Myanmar. So, almost all of my friends are Shan and because of them, I simply love the way Shan people talk as well as their food. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if I’m telling you that my girlfriend is also Shan.
Although there were so many memorable childhood events that could never be forgotten, to me the celebration of Kathina festival always brings a big smile on my face every time I think about it back then. I was at my 8th grade and as a part of Kathina celebration, we students had to give the most entertaining show as we possibly could. We agreed to perform a traditional dance, U Shwe Yoe Dance, to entertain people who joined the event.
U Shwe Yoe dance, one of the highlights in a traditional Burmese festival, presents the character of an old bachelor with thick eyebrows, sunglasses, artificial plastic nose with long and curved mustache. U Shwe Yoe typically wears a traditional Gong Baung (ေခါင္းေပါင္း) (Headwear), Taung Shay Pa Soe (ေတာင္ရွည္ပုဆိုုး) (Longyi) and Taikpone (Jacket). You can imagine that the look is humorous enough. What makes it more humorous is that he has to dance with funny manners carrying a twirling Pathein parasol, a Burmese-style umbrella.
I bet the name ‘U Shwe Yoe’’ starts to sound fun and funny to you already. And yes, because of this, none of us wanted to play ‘U Shwe Yoe’ role. Guess who was brave enough to play this comical role. That was me! Well, it was a hard work that I had to rehearse plenty of times before the show. Despite a bunch of rehearsals, I was not so confident. I must have underestimated myself a little until after I received rounds of applauses from a joyful group of audiences.
Now you would probably want to know less about me and more about U Shwe Yoe dance, wouldn’t you? The dance was invented by U Ba Ga Lay in 1923 who was a famous Burmese-Muslim cartoonist, comedian and dancer as well as actor. Born in Pathein where parasol industry was well known, he used it as a part of the dance. His joker dance sequences become more popular among Myanmar people, and nowadays it is one among the most famous national folk dances in our country.
The original version ‘U Shwe Yoe’ was then modified to a new duet with ‘Daw Moe’, whose role was performed by male or female. That’s how the dance version ‘U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe’ is later recognized. Folk instruments used for the dance are simple, such as Ozi (အိုးစည္) and Doe-but (ဒိုးပတ္) two kinds of Burmese traditional percussion. U Shwe Yoe’s role is to try to woo the beautiful spinster, Daw Moe, who tries to evade him artfully while he keeps on persisting. It is entertaining that audiences cheerfully encourage U Shwe Yoe for his lively attempt.
This is how much I briefly say about this traditional dance and how it always reminiscently brings back a memory of my old days.
Aung Ph Zaw