New dance series 'Tabula Rasa' set to showcase cutting-edge choreography


In the upcoming 'Tabula Rasa' show, Zulkarnain (left) will be introducing a sensory-based work titled 'To Be Touched'. Photo: Handout

This weekend marks the debut of Tabula Rasa, a cutting-edge dance series curated by ASK Dance Company (ADC). This innovative platform is dedicated to spotlighting Malaysian choreographers and their works in the contemporary dance genre.

Tabula Rasa 2024 – Choreography: Reset, Reflect, Reimagine aims to transcend the boundaries of traditional dance presentations. It seeks to offer more than just a performance; it strives to create a transformative journey, pushing boundaries and prompting audiences to reconsider their perceptions of dance.

The show – set to play at Black Box, Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) in Petaling Jaya from April 26-28 – features new contemporary works by local choreographers: Chai Vivan, 35, Raziman Sarbini, 33, Zulkarnain Zuber, 31, Fatin Nadhirah Rahmat, 28, and Indian guest artist Surjit Nongmeikapam, 38.

ADC founder and artistic director Prof Dr Joseph Gonzales, who came up with the show’s concept, says he wanted to make more space for contemporary dance performances in Malaysia.

“I love the idea of ‘tabula rasa’ (or ‘blank slate’) – I first heard it as the title of a music composition by (Estonian composer) Arvo Part – which suggests that every individual possesses innate creativity waiting to be unleashed," says Gonzales.

Fatin Nadhirah will present 'Nurra', a piece which dives into themes of being in the spotlight and societal responses. Photo: Huneid TyebFatin Nadhirah will present 'Nurra', a piece which dives into themes of being in the spotlight and societal responses. Photo: Huneid Tyeb

“Following this premise, we invited the participating choreographers to challenge conventional ideas of dance and ‘unschool the mind’ from decades of dance conventions,” he adds.

Future dance innovators

Rather than a one-off show, Tabula Rasa is set to be an annual or bi-annual showcase of fast-rising Malaysian choreographers.

“I know these four Malaysian choreographers and this is the age group that I wish to keep encouraging for the future – emerging artists who could shape dance for the next few decades. Having this platform also further cements the groundbreaking relationship between ADC and Taylor’s University’s dance programme,” says Gonzales.

In Tabula Rasa 2024, audiences will be treated to Chai's The Chef's Experiment, a thought-provoking piece delving into food and health matters with a touch of irony. This performance promises to challenge conventional depictions of food shows, offering a fresh perspective on these themes.

‘I know these four Malaysian choreographers and this is the age group that I wish to keep encouraging for the future – emerging artists who could shape dance for the next few decades,’ says Gonzales. Photo: Joseph Gonzales‘I know these four Malaysian choreographers and this is the age group that I wish to keep encouraging for the future – emerging artists who could shape dance for the next few decades,’ says Gonzales. Photo: Joseph Gonzales

Additionally, To Be Touched by Zulkarnain takes centre stage, drawing inspiration from the tactile sense to craft an immersive and emotionally resonant experience. The dancer-choreographer's previous accolades, including the prestigious Kinosaki International Arts Centre Prize, attest to his talent and innovation showcased in works like Interchange.

Raziman's Under The Line explores the intricacies of conflict resolution and problem-solving using the metaphor of a tug-of-war game. Meanwhile, Nadhirah, the youngest member of the group, brings Nurra to the stage—a collaborative piece between choreographer and lighting designer. This performance delves into the themes of being thrust into the spotlight and the varied societal responses that ensue.

As the guest artist, renowned Manipur-based choreographer Surjit will stage Dots And Lines, exploring traditional and contemporary movements.

While taking part in the Laya Pravaha choreography residency at the Khajuraho International Dance Festival in India, Gonzales says he was “completely mesmerised” by Surjit’s artistry and approach to contemporary dance.

Renowned Indian choreographer/dancer Surjit is the guest for the 'Tabula Rasa' series. Photo: Surjit NongmeikapamRenowned Indian choreographer/dancer Surjit is the guest for the 'Tabula Rasa' series. Photo: Surjit Nongmeikapam

“While he brings his insight and eclectic training into his choreography, he does not seem to be locked into a specific form and he works to refine and define his own aesthetics in dance,” he adds.

For those curious to learn more about Surjit and his dance experience, Gonzales will be facilitating Chai Time With Surjit on April 26, 5pm at White Sands Cafe in Petaling Jaya, where Surjit will share insights into his life as an artist and his creative processes.

Through Tabula Rasa, Gonzales hopes to treat audiences to a non-conventional contemporary dance show, especially those who are familiar with the work of ADC.

"All five works exhibit distinctiveness, emphasizing the diverse approaches to choreography. My hope is that audiences recognise this variety and appreciate the multiplicity of perspectives in contemporary dance.

"Ultimately, personal interpretation shapes one's perception of each piece. I encourage viewers to actively engage with the performances, allowing them to discover fresh insights and perspectives on dance," concludes Gonzales.

Tabula Rasa 2024 – Choreography: Reset, Reflect, Reimagine will play at Black Box, Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) in Petaling Jaya from April 26-28.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Next In Culture

Malaysian illustrator Tuan Nini, based in Romania, shares her art journey
Pop-up prison exhibit in Penang showcases history of Malaysia's first two inmates
Malaysian illustrator Erica Eng named in Forbes' '30 Under 30 Asia' list
K-pop group NewJeans voices British Museum's official Korean audio guide
Weekend For The Arts: Raito Low's short films, KL Colour District exhibition
Violin village: artisanal hub in Bolivian Amazon
Man pleads not guilty to chopping down one of Britain's most famous trees
King Charles III sees red in new official portrait
Splendour of the spiritual at Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Alice Munro, Nobel-winning Canadian author, dies at 92

Others Also Read