Chukha Tshechu (Photo Courtesy: Bookmytour )

Revised wages attracts dzongkhag dancers and mask dancers across Bhutan

The revised monthly allowances and daily allowances for the folk dancers and mask dancers in the dzongkhags is generating interest among the people to join the dancing profession.

In the past years, dzongkhag officials faced numerous challenges in order to get dancers for Tshechu and other functions. Now, with the new wages, there is no shortage of dancers. The dancers can even be retained.

The monthly allowance before the revision was Nu 1,500 for a mask dancer or a folk dancer, and Dodhams/ Champoens/ Chamjubs/ Tsipoens (leader) were paid Nu 2,000 each. The daily allowances for mask and folk dancers used to be Nu 300 and Nu 500 for Dodhams/ Champoens/ Chamjubs/ Tsipoens.

However, after wage revision, the monthly allowances for a mask dancer or a folk dancer is Nu 2,500. Dodhams/ Champoens/ Chamjubs/ Tsipoens are now paid Nu 3,000 each. The revised daily allowances for mask or folk dancers are Nu 700 and Nu 1000 for Dodhams/ Champoens/ Chamjubs/ Tsipoens.

While there are permanent dancers in some dzongkhags, the dzongkhags that have no permanent dancers make it a point to get the dancers gewog wise.

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

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

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

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

Haa Tshechu (Photo Courtesy: Bhutan Buddha Travellers)

A culture officer of Trashiyangtse, 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 the participation. “We circulate the post through the Gup but no one comes forward, so we personally go and request,” he said.

However, with increase in wages for the dancers, the number is increasing and the participants started showing extra effort and interest, he added. And it is not so challenging to get the dancers from gewogs.

He said, “We started receiving calls saying they would 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 move of increase in wages is an advantage for all.”

In the past years, he said that due to minimal allowances, they backed out saying it is too less for them to sustain their daily expenses. They had to contribute food items during their practice time as their DSA was too less, he said.

“We can now retain them from resigning unlike in the past. In the past years, we have to change dancers every year. We can give opportunities to those who stay back home after class XII,” he added.

Meanwhile, he said that though the wages are being revised, the government has not yet sanctioned the new revised budget. However, they are paying the revised rate.

Haa Dzongda, Kinzang Dorji, shared that they have a regular dancers in the dzongkhag, adding that, “I feel that what government pays is good enough because sometimes, for a few months, they stay ideal, yet they get paid. We pay them TADA when they come for any event in dzongkhag.” However, he said the dancers require other motivation than just the salary.

“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 dzongkhags pay them,” he said.

He said, “In the past, the dancers were in rotation wise (gewog wise), and that is why there was 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 drayang sometimes.”

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

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

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

In addition, he said that it is quite challenging to retain mask dancers in Haa as they do not have any income than their salary. “So we are planning to make them as a team in our tourism flagship program. However, we are not sure how it will be materialized,” the Haa Dzongda added.

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