Music and Dance from Myanmar: Shwe Man Thabin Zat Pwe
The performance will be preceded at 7:00 pm by free pre-performance lecture. Asia Society Museum's exhibition Buddhist Art of Myanmar is also open until 9:00 pm on Friday, May 10 (free Museum admission from 6:00-9:00 pm).
One of Myanmar's most revered traditional performing arts troupes, Shwe Man Thabin makes its New York premiere with an 18-member company of musicians and dancers. Performing zat pwe — the traditional Burmese performance form that combines elements of music, dance, and theater into a unique variety extravaganza.
A highly stylized form, zat pwe typically takes the form of an all-night performance. It is a popular part of village pagoda celebrations, featuring dancers, comedians, clowns, and acrobats, all accompanied by a live percussion and gong ensemble known as the hsaing wang. 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. The music is accompanied by dancers elaborately decked out with flowered headdresses, pearl chokers, floral garlands, and long pink skirts with gleaming threads. The dance, with precisely angled limbs, elegantly smooth at times and wildly acrobatic at others, imitates the movements of a marionette or can be just plain slapstick.
The Shwe Man Thabin troupe promises to offer an enticing glimpse into the heritage of one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cultures. Heirs to an artistic lineage that stretches back through the centuries, yet effortlessly contemporary in their approach, the members of Shwe Man Thabin are a living link to Myanmar’s rich past, who also ensure that this legacy of court and popular folk traditions will be an integral component of Myanmar’s future. This is a rare glimpse into an extraordinary art form, which remains little known outside its native land.
This program is made possible in part by the Asian Cultural Council and the New York State Council on the Arts.