Dancing the new dawn in Malaysia

Ilham: Inspiration

When: July 21-22, 4pm/ Where: L0806, Menara Sentral Vista, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tickets at RM50 available./ Whatsapp or call +6017-6266725.

IT’s a diverse range of dance vocabulary on stage for Geethashankarandance’s presentation called Ilham: Inspiration.

Take butoh dancer Yeow Lai Chee, one of seven choreographers in Ilham, for example.

Lai CHee

Lai CHee

Yeow says her piece, The Missing Petal, explores different ways of movement. Stopping is also dancing; the body in a state of lightness or heaviness, softness or tension, in between consciousness and unconsciousness.

The Missing Petal tells of a lady who is part of a peony garden. It is hard to tell if the fragrance comes from the lady or the peonies. She seems to be searching for something in the garden; her missing petal.

With no formal dance training, Yeow says she fell in love with Chinese classical dance when aged 21.

“I did not go through professional dance training before taking up butoh, and I had no interest in dance, When I was 5 years old, I was ‘traumatised’ by the ‘complicated’ dance steps and composition when ordered by the teacher to dance the Chinese lotus in a group.

“Turn here, turn there; I just lost the direction that made me nervous. I was relieved to be pulled out of the dance.

“in 2005, I joined a local musical production (Musical On Stage, now Asia Musical Production) as a singer, but I was asked to perform as a dancer in the musical. It was strange! That’s when I started to learn dance, and became a butoh practitioner in 2009.”

The founder of Malaysian butoh company Soubi Sha, Yeow, who joined well-known butoh dance company Nyoba Kan in 2009, says she didn’t like butoh at all before taking it up.


“It was ugly and odd; ridiculous. But when I first saw a performance by Japanese butoh master Yukio Waguri, I was startled. He stood still on the stage with a fierece expression, told through his eyes. It created a strong and mysterious atmosphere, and I felt butoh dance is so strong!

“I was curious. How could a dancer stand still and yet create such strong feelings in the audience, so I asked him, can I learn butoh from him? He said yes, and he was my butoh teacher and mentor for six years,” says the Tunku Abdul Rahman University College lecturer.

It is sad that dance is the expression of the soul. For Yeow, butoh is a path to search who she is, her hidden identity.

“What is human, what is life? What is death? I keep searching these from butoh. Butoh is real and honest. With Butoh, I  see dance differently, the presence of the body.

“Dance is not about  movement, but the dance itself from the body’s memory and dancer’s experience, the relationship between the space and the dance body that create the size and speed, and the different materials of the body that the dancer can transform to.

“I want to try and try more, to find what new butoh can be.”

Joining Yeow at Geetha’s dance studio in Brickfields are Geetha herself, Aida Redza, Rithaudin Abdul Kadir, Mohammad Khairi Mokthar, Wong Wan Ying, and Arunagiri Szeyuan Lam.

The extraordinary choreographer, Aida, will offer Three Graces, with Eu Tee Por, Sukhveer Kaur and Noor Wahida. A transformational trainer, a cancer survivor, and a single mother, these three are bound by a love and passion for dance, poetry and song which has led them to collaborate for the first time with Aida in a contemporary work.

“This is a work in progress that aims to celebrate the role of  mother —  as a symbol of creation, mother of universe, that encompasses fertility and procreation, guidance and protection, sacrifice, compassion, dependability, and wisdom.”

She says her 10-minute piece will feature three unsung women as they introduce their different roles as mother to child and to the young that they care for, to the people they train and transform, to the community they work to empower — through the dance of song and words. “They express their hopes through a humble celebration of their roles as ‘mothers’ to the society.”

Trained in both Western contemporary dance and traditional Malay dance, Aida has worked in various dance companies abroad. Many George Town Heritage Festival fans may have caught her work called Padi last year.



Ilham is Geetha’s way of supporting the creativity of Malaysian arts. Says the dance teacher and odissi exponent: “The sky is the limit for Malaysian talent and creativity, and these very vital people in any society have reason to effect change in the mindsets of a community.

“Contemporary artforms are about current trends… and we no longer are afraid to be as quiet or simplistic or abstract and bizarre… we have talent at every level.”

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