Beats and Breaks in Burma: Myanmar’s biggest dance crew

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The Junior Creative dance team performs at the quarterfinals of “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” in January 2020. /Junior Creative

By Lwin Mar Htun January 30, 2020

When Junior Creative, a dance team from Myanmar, performed in the quarter-finals of “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” in early January, they did not choose the easy path. They chose to perform a shadow dance, where the dancers move between a powerful light and a fabric screen that covers the stage, the audience seeing only the silhouettes of the dancers and their accessories. The group performed a story about the impacts of the Civil War and child soldiers to a delighted and emotional audience.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Simon Cowell, a judge famous for his harsh comments to contestants. “We see that a lot on this show. Young people your age are able to make a point more clearly than people three times your age. All the members of the group are between 17 and 22 years old.

Another judge, Heidi Klum, added: “I think it’s also important that you help out and fight for the other kids, so congratulations to all of you for doing that.”

Junior Creative performs a story about child victims of war in “America’s Got Talent.” / Junior Creative

“We didn’t win the award but we were so happy with how Simon gave us this positive feedback and how he and all gave us a standing ovation,” said Chef Khant Bhone Shein. of the dance team. “Now we plan to achieve ‘Asia’s Got Talent’, after a bit more preparation.”

Junior Creative also won Season 5 of “Myanmar’s Got Talent” in 2018 and the group now hopes to represent Myanmar at “Asia’s Got Talent”.

Khant Bhone Shein and some other team members founded Junior Creative in late 2014. The group first participated in “Myanmar’s Got Talent” in 2015 in season 2, with an urban dance performance.

“We have reached the final stage [in 2015] but we didn’t win any prizes. Then we participated in season 5, with a shadow dance show and with more members. Then we got the top prize,” said Khant Bhone Shein.

Currently, the Junior Creative Dance Team consists of 15 members. They are all students in different universities but they are united around the expression and the messages they hope to convey.

In a shadow performance, Junior Creative depicts a man preparing to give Thanaka, a traditional Myanmar skin treatment, to another. / Junior Creative

“There are so many genres of dance and we found shadow dancing. We have many creative options in shadow dancing and it’s more about telling stories, so we can convey a message to the audience through our creations,” said Khant Bhone Shein.

Their award-winning performance on “Myanmar’s Got Talent” in 2018 was about a minor victim of sexual abuse.

“Actually shadow dance choreography is not very easy to do and practice in normal dance studios. We need a big space and have to install a fabric screen and other things,” said Khant Bhone Shein. “Fortunately, we got a big hall from Medical University 1 because we have a few medical students in our team. So, they asked for help from the school. But we do everything else ourselves. .

When they started dancing together, many members of Junior Creative did not have the support of their families, who feared that dancing would not be a lifelong career and would not bring in money.

“I had to go against my parents’ words. We have to get our pocket money back to go to a dance studio. After they won ‘Myanmar’s Got Talent’, they started to change their minds and let us go,” said Thiha Tin Aung Soe, another member of the group.

“My mother wants me to focus on my studies because I am a medical student and my parents want me to become a doctor,” added Thiha Tin Aung Soe. “But I’m so into dancing. Now they have started to accept dancing as a career, but I have to find a balance between dancing and studying.

When they won “Myanmar’s Got Talent,” the group received 150 million kyat ($102,000).

“[Since winning in 2018] people started to recognize us and we got more job opportunities,” said Khant Bhone Shein. “We had the chance to attend a workshop with international professional choreographers. We have our own dance studio. We are truly grateful to Myanmar’s Got Talent for these opportunities. »

Junior Creative was founded in 2014 and has a total of 15 members, including young men and women. / Junior Creative

Six months after winning “Myanmar’s Got Talent”, they received an invitation to “America’s Got Talent: The Champions”, a competition between winning artists from around the world.

“At first we thought it was a fake message or spam. But it was true and we have performed on stage before; we are so happy,” said Khant Bhone Shein.

They only had six months to prepare to compete at “America’s Got Talent.”

“The stage is bigger than ‘Myanmar’s Got Talent’ but all the sets were the same. We were a bit more excited because the audiences are different and we’re in another country, but we did our best,” said Khant Bhone Shein.

Although Junior Creative may have won a top dance award, Myanmar dancers still face a number of challenges.

“There are a lot of training courses or private dance lessons in Myanmar, but we didn’t have a dance school. We watch videos on YouTube,” Khant Bhone Shein said. “A lot of people still don’t accept dancing as a career that can earn a living, that’s the main problem. But we won’t give up. We will keep trying for more.

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