Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Burmese Hsaing and Anyein

Hsaing Waing Ensemble

Hsaing Waing Ensemble

Anyein is a dance form closely resembling popular theater. The name of this form is drawn from a Burmese word meaning “gentle,” which is a fitting description. Although its origins are somewhat unclear, Anyein is popular in Burma today, and is frequently encountered as one of the entertainments provided in connection with the numerous festivals which are an important part in Burmese life. One of the basic concepts of Burmese festivals is that the festivals themselves re offerings of good will and pleasure to the community. In this way a performance by an Anyein troupe may figure in both religious and secular celebrations. At times, as for example in the case of a small family festival such as the cradling of a new baby to which the neighborhood is invited, the Anyein may be the only entertainment offered. For other events, such as the cremation of an illustrious monk or the occasion of a pagoda festival, several types of entertainments may be offered along with Anyein, such as a Pwe theatrical performance or a hsaing concert.

The Anyein performance as it is known today consists of two distinct yet complimentary elements. These are the singing and dancing of the Anyein herself and the dialogue and slapstick of the clowns, Lu bye’. There is a loose alternation of the formal singing and dancing of the Anyein with the comic interludes of the clowns. Some Anyein troupes are large and elaborate, Such troupes may also present formal, dramatic scenes mixed with song and dances, and may at times, follow the pattern of the traditional Pwe theatricals by staging an interlude, hnapa tawa, in which the entire cast appears for a series of solo and group dances interspersed with continuous dialogue and commentary by the clowns.

The style of Anyein dancing is closely related to other forms of Burmese dance. The same basic postures are used. The body is slightly arched while the knees are partially bent. The wrists are held close to the waist with the elbows back. From this stylized position, which is an exaggerated imitation of Burmese puppets, the Anyein moves with small steps, sometimes deftly kicking her train to the side. As the music intensifies, the movements may include vigorous leaps and even acrobatic turns which always stop at the end of the musical phrase as signaled by the beat of the clapper. But even in the most vigorous and rapid movements, the Anyein style retains the gentle, graceful quality characterized by the name.

In modern times Anyein performances are most frequently encountered with the Anyein in the company of a troupe of clowns and the performance accompanied by the full hsaing ensemble. In older and more classical styles, two Anyein dancers may appear on stage accompanied by the Burmese harp or the xylophone, while another musician keeps time with the bell and clappers. In such performances the emphasis is placed on the more formal elements of the dance itself. This small group of dancers and accompanists is considerably less theatrical than most of the troupes seen in Burma today.