Under the Lion's Skin

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By Marie Starr
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Feb 2017

Lion dancing is a traditional form of dancing in China that has spread around the world. Performers take on the lion’s persona and simultaneously perform acrobatic moves across the top of a set of poles in front of judges. In Yangon there are a number of lion dancing groups who spend months coming up to the Lunar New Year practicing and preparing for the competitions that take place in Chinatown and Junction Square.
Last year, photographer Marie Starr spent the weeks coming up to the Lunar New Year following one Yangon lion dancing team, Taw Win Myanmar KSK Lion Dance Association, through their trainings, triumphs and loss.

The teams are at Junction Square for the semi-final. The lion costume is bought abroad for a high price an important part of the act.

Dragon dances also form a smaller section of the competition which has been running in Yangon for the past 12 years. The team's two best dancers Nay Htet Won(22) and Ankuu (24) qualify for the semi-final and perform in front of a panel of judges and hundreds of spectators.

The team performs extremely well in the competition's semi-final which is held outside Junction Square shopping mall in Yangon. They scored enough points to get through to the final in two days time.

At a competition final, the drummers beat out the lion's rythm from the stage. "Catchers" await under the lion in case it loses balance and falls. Falls are common and dancers are often hospitalised

On the night of the final Ankuu is feeling tense.

Intense concentration on Nay Htet Won's face as he launches Ankuu in the lion's head into the air during the final performance Shortly after this, the team suffer a fatal fall. Though uninjured, their dreams of winning are crushed. The receive the 2nd runner-up prize.

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