U Maung Maung Circus returns to Yangon
January 24 - 30, 2011
THE U Maung Maung Circus, last seen in Yangon in 2003, will be performing free every Sunday evening at Kandawgyi Park throughout February.
The famous circus has been around since the mid-1950s and started with a troupe of about 40 performers. It has since expanded and now has two troupes: one run by U Maung Maung’s nephew Arzarni San San and the other by his son. Death-defying performances include motorbike stunts and trapeze; although for the tamer hearted there is also juggling and animal tricks featuring elephants, monkeys, horses and dogs.
“From ages seven to seventy, we have about one hundred members in our circus; it’s like a big family. Some of them have been with us for more than forty years — since the beginning,” said Kyaw Oo, the nephew of Arzarni San San and manager of U Maung Maung’s Arzarni San San Circus.
U Maung Maung studied circus in Moscow from 1961 to 1963. Some of the circus performers were sent to Beijing in 2008 and 2010 as part of government-backed China-Myanmar cultural exchange programs.
Similar to Myanmar Zat Pwe performers, the circus mostly provides entertainment to villages during the height of the pagoda festival season in March. In the rainy season the circuses tour Upper Myanmar before travelling down to Ayeyarwady Region for the hot season.
“In locations where there are no stadiums, we have to erect our own tents, which can fit about 2000 to 3000 people,” said Kyaw Oo.
The circus makes a loss during the rainy season but recovers during the hot season. Kyaw Oo says that for the sake of employees, the show must go on for the whole year: “We have to keep our business running without a break. If we rest for too long our people will become unemployed; we cannot lose them.”