Rather than a classic, this dance is an example of contemporary Burmese folk art. The dance has appeared out of the custom of entertaining the crowd, especially volunteers taking part in Flag Days or at community charitable activities. Its purpose is to inspire people to donate and to do meritorious deeds for the betterment of next lives.
U Shwe Yoe was a prominent Burmese actor, comedian, dancer and cartoonist. He became famous with the Shwe Yoe the jolly joker dance routine which first appeared in 1923 film Ah Ba Ye, an early Burmese language film about rural life. The dance routine was a hit with the audiences, and was soon adopted as a standard dance in many festive occasions. With thick eyebrows, long curved mustache, traditional Burmese headdress, the gaung baung, long scarf around the neck, traditional Burmese jacket taikpon, checked long sarong Taung Shae Pasoe and the small Pathein umbrella. This became the trademark of Shwe Yoe. Later the dancers easily copied his image by using special comical sunglass with artificial plastic nose and eyebrows.
The U Shwe Yoe dance has become an essential part of charitable and other traditional Burmese ceremonies. The performer in the U Shwe Yoe character dances to the music of the traditional Burmese music troupes, twirling his traditional Burmese-style umbrella. This dance is always performed to make amusement by village lads in procession at festivals. This popular traditional Burmese dance is presented with delightful and humorous movements to please spectators. It is also a standard routine at pagoda festivals, Shinpyu ordination ceremonies, and other festive occasions. Burmese folk dances developed together with folk music and songs. So they are inseparably linked to folk music and songs. These three performing arts are complementary.
Originally Shwe Yoe was a solo performer, but over time the Daw Moe Dance was created and appended to the original version. Now the art form is popularly known as the U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe Dance. The U Shwe Yoe character dances with his comic moustache and comic movements trying to woo the spinster Daw Moe character. The Shwe Yoe Dance has been an essential part of charitable and traditional ceremonies. U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe are the comic characters. They sing, they dance and they flirt, and make the spectators laugh. The dance is presented with humour in order to make the spectators merry and gay. No religious procession is considered complete without the dance of U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe.
The names U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe are fictitious (not part of any classic text) and chosen for their rhyming effect. There is no established melody for the dance. Instead the orchestra improvises any lively tune, or recorded music is sometimes used. Enthusiastic citizens with no formal dance training often perform. The roles are one Old Bachelor (U Shwe Yoe) and one Spinster (Daw Moe), the latter played by either a male or female dancer. The choreography is spontaneous and designed to give the audience the best medicine. In a jocular manner, he emotes his love and makes a pass at Daw Moe, while she responds evasively and artfully. The audience, often mostly children and old folk, clap loudly and encourage Shwe Yoe in his persistence.