Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Dancing under the moonlight

Chinese Handkerchief Dance.

Chinese Handkerchief Dance.

Malaysian traditional dance culture is set to glow with a five-day fiesta.

THIS year is quite a big one for the country, what with it being Visit Malaysia Year.

And though we pride ourselves on our glorious beaches and majestic forests, nothing comes close to being proud of our traditional and cultural elements.

For the longest time, our traditional dances have been imprinted into the fabric of our nation, often performed during births, deaths, weddings, celebrations and healing rituals. Such dances had a more spiritual function and they still do, but unfortunately, Malaysians seem to have completely forgotten about them, or simply couldn’t care less.

“It is likely that the typical citizen of Malaysia is more aware of tango or salsa than of joget or zapin, especially in the urban centres of the country,” lamented Joseph Gonzales, dean of Aswara’s Faculty of Dance.

That is when the idea hit him when he was approached by the Tourism and Culture Ministry. Why not highlight Malaysia’s traditional dances, five to be precise, one on each night, and flare the limelight once more on these once glorified traditions.

Folk favourite: The zapin ghalet dance form, which possesses a slow and graceful tempo, is a romantic nod towards Malaysian traditional dance music's rich identity.
Folk favourite: The zapin ghalet dance form, which possesses a slow and graceful tempo, is a romantic nod towards Malaysian traditional dance music's rich identity.

Called Fiesta Of Traditional Dances Of Malaysia – Dancing in the Moonlight, this five-show performance, starting on March 5, will be staged literally under the moonlight at the Lake Gardens’ Panggung Anniversary in Kuala Lumpur.

“The wealth of Malaysian traditional dance culture is unbelievable and very few organisations present traditional dance performances per se, for audiences.

“My idea was to showcase and produce five different shows over five nights – each one having been a successful production in itself that was previously staged,” he added.

Gonzales also pointed out that a performance such as this has not been previously done in the traditional dance genre.

Boasting a troupe of 80 dancers, not all the dance performances will be purely traditional. Gonzales said the first performance, inspired by the animal kingdom, will possess some elements of contemporary dance while for the zapin night, it will be an amalgamation of older and new zapin dances.

“The asyik night is possibly the only night where there could be the greatest purity since most of these dances are older and very rarely performed anymore.

“They have their origins in the court traditions of the nation and are therefore more steeped in customs and practices of the royal palaces,” he explained.

Of the closing act on the final night, which will feature traditional dances reinvented by a new generation of choreographers, Gonzales said it gives Malaysians “an idea of what the future holds for traditional dances. This is indicative of the need to keep traditions alive, constantly reviving and reinventing them to be relevant to contemporary tastes.”

Fiesta of Traditional Dances of Malaysia – Dancing in the Moonlight will be on at Panggung Anniversary, Lake Gardens, Jalan Kebun Bunga, Kuala Lumpur, from March 5 to 8. Performances at 8.30pm daily. Free entrance. For reservations, call 03-26971777/4505/5313 or 019-231 9179 (Jeffri).

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Fiesta of Traditional Dances , Joseph Gonzales , Aswara traditional dance


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