excerpt from 'My Years With Pavlova' pp. 93–94 (355 words)

excerpt from 'My Years With Pavlova' pp. 93–94 (355 words)

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My Years With Pavlova

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After the party we were all taken to see the Burmese dramas known as Pwes. … Rough stages had been set up in the open air and the audience sat on the grass; overhead was the brilliant moonlit sky contrasting strangely with the festoons of crude electric lights which lit the stage.  There was no front curtain and the back drop was painted like a brick wall.  Nothing could have looked less theatrical.  Chairs were conjured up from nowhere when we appeared, and the Burmese outdid each other in their politeness and anxiety to make sure we were comfortable.

                Nobody paid to see the Pwes.  All the performances were sponsored by wealthy Burmese families as offerings to the gods, and, if anybody felt generous enough to offer any money on the spot, it was always kept for the maintenance of the pagodas.  It is impossible to describe the grotesque dances we saw; they had a strange hypnotic quality but none of that wonderful poise I admired so much in Japan.  Here everything seemed untidy and unfinished, and there was too much casual Western influence.  I felt more than sorry for the orchestra who were imprisoned in a sort of cage just below the platform, where they were expected to play solidly on their barbaric instruments from nine in the evening until at least four in the morning or even six.

                The Burmese girls were delightful in their exotic elegance. They wore flowers and little tassels in their hair, which was coiled like a wall round their heads.  The corners of their tightly-fitting jackets were wired out to form curves similar to those used to such advantage in Burmese architecture, and their sarongs formed into exquisite lines as the girls moved gracefully about the stage. … At one of the Pwes the leading actress was so determined to please the English visitors and the great dancer Madame Pavlova that she sang an English song especially for our benefit.

                ‘My love is like a little bird’ …

                I can still see her tiny serious face as she sang the trite little ballad to the end.  

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excerpt from 'My Years With Pavlova' pp. 93–94 (355 words)


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