Myanmar Troupe Shwe Man Thabin to Perform at Asia Society New York

(Rachel Cooper/Asia Society)

NEW YORK, March 24, 2015 — Asia Society announces the U.S. premiere of Shwe Man Thabin, one of Myanmar's most beloved traditional performing arts troupes, in two performances on April 10-11. Eighteen musicians and dancers from the 75-member company will travel from Myanmar to the U.S. for a rare international appearance.

The highly stylized Zat Pwe is a widely popular part of village pagoda celebrations, and is typically performed as an all-night cabaret with dancers, actors, comedians and singers accompanied by a live drum and gong ensemble known as the Hsaing Wang. The company will present an abridged 90-minute Zat Pwe, offering a glimpse into an extraordinary art form which remains little known outside its native land.

Percussive, melodic, and dizzyingly fast, Myanmar music has its own nearly manic timing which offers the listener an exhilarating tease, defying expectations of symmetry or steady tempo, and matched in exuberant action in the dance. The dancers are elaborately decked out with flowered headdresses, pearl chokers, floral garlands and long silk costumes with sequined threads. The dance, with sharply angled limbs, is elegantly smooth at times and wildly acrobatic at others, imitating the movements of a marionette and ending in a daredevil slapstick collapse.

Heirs to an artistic lineage that stretches back through the centuries, the Shwe Man Thabin troupe weaves contemporary and traditional themes into their performances, including rock music, social commentary and the Jataka tales of the previous births of the Buddha. The members of Shwe Man Thabin are a living link to Myanmar’s rich past, yet also ensure that court and popular folk traditions will also be an integral component of Myanmar’s future.

Asia Society has been deeply engaged with Myanmar for years on arts and culture as well as policy issues. In 1975, the Asia Society hosted a rare performance of dance and music by the Myanmar National Theater Company. It was almost 30 years until another full Myanmar ensemble performed in New York City. In 2003, Asia Society presented a 19-piece group led by dancer U Win Maung and master musician Kyaw Kyaw Naing, one of the world's leading practitioners of Myanmar music.

The Shwe Man Thabin performances are part of Myanmar’s Moment, a programming series built around the groundbreaking Asia Society Museum exhibition Buddhist Art of Myanmar, which runs from February 10 to May 10, 2015, in New York City.


Music and Dance from Myanmar: Shwe Man Thabin Zat Pwe
Pre-performance lectures at 7pm
Asia Society (725 Park Avenue, New York, NY)
Friday, April 10 at 8pm and Saturday, April 11 at 8pm
$30 non-members; $26 students/seniors; $22 members; tickets at AsiaSociety.org/NYC

Lecture Demonstration/Workshop with Shwe Man Thabin Zat Pwe
Asia Society (725 Park Avenue, New York, NY)
Sunday, April 12 at 11am
$15 non-members; $12 students/seniors; $10 members; tickets at AsiaSociety.org/NYC