Revised Wages Attract More Mask And Folk Dancers For Bhutan’s Festivals

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Due to the low allowances in the past, dancers usually backed out saying that the pay was too little for them to sustain their daily expenses.

Masked dancers of Bhutan (Source: Intravino)

 

By Developer | The Bhutanese

For many tourists visiting Bhutan, the flamboyant mask dances performed at a tshechu (festival) has always been a memorable highlight.

It is interesting to learn that in the past, dzongkhag (district) officials usually faced numerous challenges in order to get dancers for tshechus and other functions.

To address this issue, daily and monthly allowances for these folk and mask dancers were recently revised.

This move has not only enticed more people to join the dancing profession, former dancers are even more motivated to stay in this line.

Wages before and after the revision

Before the revision, the monthly allowance was Nu 1,500 (USD 21) for a mask or folk dancer, while the dodhams, champoens, chamjubs and tsipoens (leaders) were paid Nu 2,000 (USD 28) each.

However, after the wage revision, the monthly allowances for a mask or folk dancer is Nu 2,500 (USD 35), while the dodhams, champoens, chamjubs and tsipoens are now paid Nu 3,000 (USD 42) each.

As for the mask and folk dancers, their daily allowances used to be Nu 300 (USD 4) while the dodhams, champoens, chamjubs and tsipoens were paid Nu 500 (USD 7).

The revised daily allowances are now Nu 700 (USD 9.80) and Nu 1000 (USD 14) for mask or folk dancers and the dodhams, champoens, chamjubs and tsipoens respectively.

Positive impact from the wage increase

Chukha’s dzongda, Minjur Dorji, said that compared to the past years, with the new daily and monthly allowances now, the number of dancers has increased. Moreover, the existing participants are showing an extra interest in dancing.

 

Source: Youtube/Druk Asia

 

“Until last year, the mask dancers always come up with a resignation right after a tshechu. However, we have not seen a single person coming to resign this year, and we have more than 20 mask dancers,” he added.

In addition, it was difficult to get participants from gewogs (villages) in the past, even though it was mandatory to have four (two folk dancers and two mask dancers) from each gewog.

“This is an encouraging initiative to preserve our culture and to keep our people engaged in cultural practices. Otherwise, it is difficult to get representatives from gewogs. Low wages was discouraging for the people,” he explained.

A culture officer of Trashiyangtse district, Tashi Dawa, said that it was difficult to get dancers in the past, whereby they literally had to go into each gewog and request for their participation.

“We circulated the post through the GUP but no one came forward, so we personally had to go and request for dancers,” he said.

However, with the increase in wages for the dancers, the participants started showing extra effort and interest. On top of that, it is also getting less challenging to get the dancers from gewogs.

“We started receiving calls saying that they want to participate, without having to call them, unlike in the past. Those who wanted to resign in the past are now extending their stay. The increase in wages has been an advantage for all,” said Tashi Dawa.

Due to the low allowances in the past, dancers usually backed out saying that the pay was too little for them to sustain their daily expenses.

“They even had to pay for their own food during their practice time as their DSA was too low,” he added.

“We can now prevent them from resigning. In the past years, we had to change dancers every year. We can give opportunities to those who stay back home after class XII,” he said.

Meanwhile, even though the wages have been revised, the government has not sanctioned the new revised budget yet.

Importance of training the dancers

Haa’s dzongda, Kinzang Dorji felt that the dancers require other motivation to be in the profession, and not just the salary.

 

Source: Youtube/Druk Asia Bhutan Travel Specialist

 

“What we need to do is, train them, make them a set of professional dancers so that they can make quite a good income apart from what the dzongkhags pay them,” he explained.

“In the past, the dancers were on rotation (gewog wise), and that is why there were no dancers who were perfect. Also it was so difficult to get dancers in the dzongkhag that we literally had to hire people from other dzongkhags and drayangs sometimes.”

Therefore, the dzongkhag had requested RAPA to come and train the dancers professionally. The fully trained dancers are now hired in many events which is able to bring them good income.

With such an initiative implemented, apart from the increase in wages, many people are coming forward and the dzongkhag has received quite a good number of applicants from all the gewogs.

“Compared to past years, lots of improvement has come. If we train them, there will be many who will come forward and we can preserve our culture in better ways, this will ultimately lead to a better future,” he said.

 

This article first appeared in The Bhutanese and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

 

 


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