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Traditional dance troupes face additional restrictions

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - 12 July 2011 - All Burmese traditional dance troupes who wish to make a video of a performance are now required to perform a full-dress rehearsal in front of censorship board officials three days prior to a performance, according to Myint Thein Pe, the chairman of Myanmar Motion Picture Enterprise (MMPE).

Myint Thein Pe said that if the troupe intends to make a video, the full-dress rehearsal must be performed in order to weed out vulgar jokes about government officials and ministries and culturally inappropriate costumes.

"They need to perform a full-dress rehearsal in front of us three or four days prior to the actual stage performance. Then we will tell them which parts are unacceptable," Myint Thein Pe told Mizzima. "We will examine their jokes and clothes. We will not allow them to say rude jokes. In the past, they submitted their videos to the censorship board prior to the release of a video and sometimes we had to censor, so they suffered losses. That's why we have demanded a full-dress rehearsal.

"Some jokes are culturally inappropriate," he said. "The jokes and pictures in stage performances will cease to exist after the performance. But, if they make a video, the jokes and pictures can exist permanently. So we do this for the sake of Burmese culture."

In the past, traditional dance troupes also had to perform rehearsals in front of the censor board, but there was no need to perform an exact full-dress rehearsal. In the actual stage performances, the jokes usually became more racy and critical and the costumes were sometimes considered risqué, according to Myint Thein Pe.

He said that some dance troupes did not follow the board's instructions, so their videos were censored.

To scrutinize Burmese traditional performances, the censorship board includes not only MMPE officials but also officials from music, dance and literature associations, according to Chit Oo Nyo, the MMPE vice chairman.

The "Voice Weekly" journal reported that the new policy had been established because some men wore women's dresses and told vulgar jokes in the performances.

In the past, all traditional dancers and comedians wore white traditional turbans, white shirts and white longyis; now they dress in pink, but authorities have not objected, said Pa Pa Lay, a comedian in Mandalay. He said that he could not accept the new policy.

"It is simply wrong to perform a full-dress rehearsal in front of the censorship board," Pa Pa Lay said.

Film Director Maung Thi said that the policy resulted in unnecessary work, expense and delays.

"After the relevant full-dress rehearsal, we need to wait for many days to perform the stage performance, so we usually have to conduct two rehearsals. The actors have other jobs. So when we obtain a permit to perform an actual stage performance, they forget their roles. The former policy was better. Now, the new policy makes us do much more," Maung Thi told Mizzima.

The new policy came about after the play "Rose Lord," directed by Maung Myo Min, was released, according to Maung Thi. Actors Nay Toe, Ye Lay and Tun Tun performed in the play.

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