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Dance of Burma (Bamar)

Dance in Burma (now known as Myanmar by the government there) can be divided into dramatic, folk and village, and nat dances, each having distinct characteristics. Although Burmese dance has been influenced by the dance traditions of its neighbors, in particular Thailand, it retains unique qualities that distinguish it from other regional styles, including angular, fast-paced and energetic movements and emphasis on pose, not movement.

     The origins of Burmese Dance are traced to the Pyu, Halin, and Mon cultures in the central and lower Irrawaddy regions from at least two centuries before the Christian era. Archaeological evidence shows Indian influences already in this. There were also influences from Thai and Khmer cultures during the many invasions and counter-invasions that occurred over the next two millennia. There was a particularly well documented infusion of dance forms, such as the Yama Zatdaw (the Burmese version of the Ramayana) in 1767, when the Burmese sacked Ayutthaya and expropriated a large component of the Thai court. Nonetheless, some of the surviving forms (including the belu, nat gadaw and zawgyi dances) honour folklore characters that are quintessentially Burmese, some of these from pre-Buddhist times. There is also a close relationship between the classical Burmese marionette and human dance art forms, with the former obviously imitating human dance, but also with human dance imitating the movements of the marionette.

     After independence from Britain in 1948, there was a period of strong Burmese cultural nationalism that resulted in the establishment of the State School of Music in Mandalay in 1953. A well-known dancer of the day, Oba Thaung, is credited with codifying the nearly completely undocumented Burmese dance repertory. Her syllabus at the school was condensed into five dance courses intended as a five-year term of study. Each of the five courses is broken into dance sequences comprising a total of 125 stages, with each stage being precisely ten minutes long.

various dance forms of Bamar

Bagan dance
Bilu dance
Kinnara and kinnari dances
Mount Popa’s guardian spirits dance
Nat dance
Oil lamp dance
Ramayana dances
U Min Gyaw dance
U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe dance
Zat pwe duet dance
Zawgyi dance
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