Aswara gets traditional with Malay dance

MALAY classic dances take centrestage for the first time for Aswara’s Dance Faculty with Persembahan Malam Tarian Klasik Melayu.

“It is an effort to portray the array of Malay classical dances that can be found in Malaysia, such as Terinai, Layang Mas, Ketam Bawa Anak, Joget Gamelan, Mengadap Rebab, Asyik and a few others,” says dance lecturer and dancer Mohd Nur Faillul Adam.

Joget Gamelan

To be presented as a production under the Panggung Seni Tradisional 2019 programme organised by Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara (JKKN) at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MATIC), 70 Aswara dancers – comprising students, graduates and lecturers — will showcase their talents for the Sept 27-28 weekend shows.

Under the artistic direction of Norsafini Jafar, the Dance Faculty dean, 12 Malay dances will be performed, including the Joget Gamelan.

“This dance was reconstructed from the version done by Suktra, a Terengganu state performing arts group who perform this dance regularly as part of its repertoire,” explains Faillul.

According to historical accounts, the Joget Gamelan came under the patronage of the royal court of Terengganu in 1913, following its introduction in the Pahang court from Riau-Lingga.

The dance lost its palace patronage with the Second World War, and was not performed until heritage historian and archivist Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard located, in 1966, a gamelan instrument set inside the Istana Kolam, Kuala Terengganu.  His seminal work on the arts and crafts of then Malaya led to the reintroduction of gamelan music into the Terengganu royal court. Music was an integral part of the joget, as played on the gamelan.

Other must-see dances are Ceracap Inai, which is originally from Johor and performed with candles and “bunga emas” which symbolise peace and harmony, as well as Asyik. The latter is performed in the Kelantan palace, and the dancers then were palace damsels (dayang-dayang).  According to history as stated in Hikayat Patani, Raja Kuning who ruled Patani in 1644 kept 12 palace dancers and called them “Asyik”.

The Unesco-recognised Makyung, from Kelantan, and the Perlis Silat/Terinai will also be showcased. Usually performed during royal weddings in the old days, Terinai was first called “Tarian Gendang Keling”, according to Dr Zamin Haroon also known as Chandrabanu.

The latter was invited to Aswara to give the dancers and all involved in-depth knowledge about the dance.

In fact, the Sept 27 showcase is preceded by workshops for the public to learn some facets of these Malay classical dances. The workshops will be held on Sept 23-24, at MATIC.

Says Faillul about the rehearsals for the shows: “The dancers must learn the ethos of these dances, and that is tough. When these dances were taught long ago, the performers had to start training when young because  of the aesthetics, understanding, and movements which were strict in their execution.

“We at the Dance Faculty started with our workshops for the show a few months before  production and brought Zamin, as well as  Zaharah Hamid, Norsiah Yatim, Sharifah Mahani (Mak Ngah), Majid  Rawino and Tharuwat Ismail Bakti.

“They gave us the chance to not only learn dances not in our academic syllabus but also from the pioneers of the dances.”

The Sept 27 weekend showcase promises to be both educational and entertaining.

Persembahan Malam Tarian Klasik Melayu

When: Sept 27-28 2019, 8.30pm & Sept 29, 3pm

Where: Malaysia Tourism Centre (MATIC),  Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur

Tickets: RM50 & RM20

Workshops: Sept 23 (Terinai) & Sept 24 (Joget Gamelan), 10am till noon

Where: Matic

Call 03 27785999 or email

Cover pic is of Terinai dance. All pix courtesy of Aswara

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