Banana leaf-furred Toe Naya dance in Shan State

Dance troupe performs banana leaf-furred Toe Naya dance in Shan State. Photo: MDN
Dance troupe performs banana leaf-furred Toe Naya dance in Shan State. Photo: MDN

In Shan State, Kainari and Kainara duet birds dance, Toe Naya dance, sword dance and Shan martial arts dance are performed on auspicious ceremonies.
For the Toe Naya dance, people mostly see a plastic string-furred beast or shaggy haired object where two men inside are moving to become a life-like creature.
There is another kind of Toe Naya with fur made from fresh green banana leaf. In the Shan language, it is called “Toe Taung Kway.”
The Toe Taung Kway dance is rare to see these days. However, it can be seen often at big donation ceremonies that take place at the Thiri Mingala Mansu Shan monastery in Lashio Town, Northern Shan State.
At a Buddhist novitiation ceremony where 142 local boys are ordained as new novices, which is celebrated on 1 April at the monastery visitors are entertained with the dance of Toe Taung Kway.
The dance troupe is from Nam Khaik village in Lashio Township. They have preserved the traditional dance of Toe Taung Kway out of respect; they are not a commercial troupe. The donors of Buddhist monk ordination ceremonies are invited under the management of the senior monk of the monastery.
When donors and visitors award cash, the beast skillfully picks up the cash with its mouth and spectators are pleased to see it. The body frame of the beast which is made of bamboo is connected to the head; the mouth can open and close. When the troupe is about to perform a dance at a ceremony, the body is decorated with banana leaf that is freshly picked.
A man stands at the hindquarter part of the beast. His two legs are the two hind legs of the beast. On the back of the beast, two fake legs are placed to give the impression that someone is riding the beast to control it. The man also reins the beast holding a rope in his left hand and a cane in his right hand.
The man inside the front part of the beast has to take responsibility for the movement of the head and front legs of the beast.
Both men’s movements are synchronized and their skillful performance is accompanied with the music of the Shan long drum.
According to a Shan legend, the dance of Toe (believed to be Yaks found in Tibet and Mongoloia) and Kainari and Kainara (half-man half-bird mythical creatures) originated from the incident when they welcomed the Buddha when he returned from Heaven where he preached to gods for three months.—Myanmar Digital News

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