The mask dances (cham) date back to the 8th Century and are said to bring blessings to onlookers. The Royal Academy of Performing Arts was opened in 1967 and its traditions date back to 1954 to provide formal training for masked dancers and preserve the country’s folk dancing heritage. It is located in the northern part of Thimphu City.
Dances are grouped in three broad categories: dramatic dances that push morality, dances that purify and protect places from harmful spirits and dances that celebrate victories by Buddhism and Guru Rinpoche. Dances are accompanied by the music of cymbals, drums, large and small horns, conches and bells. Dance is considered as an extension of religious and social lives by Bhutanese people because the movement reflects their deep devotion, compassion, tolerance and harmonious living.
The dancers wear flowing, colorful costumes, and take on the roles of wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons, the dead and animals. Their movements tell stories about history and fantasy and sometimes the choreography includes masked clowns, atsaras, who mimic the religiousdancers. In Bhutan, they are the only ones who are allowed to mock religion in a society that treats religious things with a lot of respect.
Photo Source URL: http://www.cafebhutan.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/BHUTAN-DANCERS.jpg
For more information: http://www.unesco.org/culture/intangible-heritage/06apa_uk.htm