Magic with contemporary dance, Feb 24, 2017

“It is difficult to do something different like contemporary dance on the bigger platforms available in the country at present, because people with authority seem to have fixed ideas about what they want to showcase.”

JAMU 2017, Feb 24-26, at Black Box, Aswara, 464 Jalan Tun Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.Tickets at RM25/RM10. Call 03-2697 1777 or email for tickets details.


CONTEMPORARY dance with traditional elements takes centrestage at Aswara (Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan) with seven new dances at the annual Jamu event.

This 14th showcase by Aswara’s Faculty of Dance, the dances are the new works of its lecturers, including Faillul Adam and Safini Jafar, performed by the institute’s students of various faculties. The other choreographers are the faculty dean, Mohd Yunus Ismail, Zamzuriah Zahari, Norbaizura Abd Ghani, Fairul Zahid Bloom and Mohd Seth Hamzah, the latter being the oldest among the group.

Three of the choreographers have completed their post-graduate studies in US’s New York University, Ireland’s University of Limerick, and Universiti Malaya, while two have performed their arangetram in bharathanatyam.

Faillul, a former street breakdancer, entered Aswara as a diploma student after seeing a television commercial about the institute. “I was at a loose end, and so I joined,” recalls the 30-year-old, ” and went straight into contemporary dance, under Dr Joseph.”

The eldest in his family, he says being a dancer is a difficult field, and the father-to-be adds: “I won’t recommend my own child to choose this path”.

Faillul, who counts ancestry from China and native Bajau of Sabah, says he took his time to come up with his new dance called Back Biting, instead of jumping right into rehearsals.

“It’s about (Sigmund) Freud’s ego and superegos. I thought about what I wanted to say, and after discussions with Datin Marion D’Cruz, I narrowed it down.”

Freud’s ego and superego is superseded by the id, which is the instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories. The super-ego operates as a moral conscience while the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.

“The conceptual process is new for me, and I hope the outcome will be deeper.”

He chose 7 male dancers for his dance, with some from the music and theatre faculties. His move is in keeping with the very idea of Aswara’s Jamu, which began in 2001 under Dr Joseph Gonzales who pushed for choreographic cross-pollination, with collaborations with the other departments.

Faillul says he observed personalities around him at the institute, leading to his choices for his performers. His Back Biting dance will have lyrics, sound and text. “I hope it will take you somewhere else. It might make you angry, but also hopefully will make you reflect.”

For Safini, 34, her dance is a deconstructed form of terinai. The Malay classical dancer-choreographer and lecturer says her work called Inai, will be pure dance, without a tale.

Terinai is a court dance from Perlis,usually accompanied by the serunai, and with a distinctive narrative of marriage and courtship. So, what Safini has planned in Inai strays from the norm.

In fact, “this will be only my sixth contemporary dance since I entered Aswara,” says the Ipoh-born Safini.

Her dance will boast a new composition by Sharizan Sahmat, with accompaniment of the serunai, gongs, and vocals from Azura Abu Bakar.

“I find doing contemporary work very difficult but I love to try,” says Safini who entered Aswara at her mother’s urging. She recalls that Dr Joseph had assured her mum that he would ensure she achieved all she could be, and hence, the master’s holder is now a lecturer and “loving it”.

Both  Faillul and Safini are glad to have the Jamu platform to showcase contemporary dances.  While they, along with other dancers and choreographers do take part in big tourism events like Citrawarna and Diversecity Kuala Lumpur (a.k.a the Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival) for monetary purposes , they lament that these have no room for local contemporary dance.

“It is difficult to do something different like contemporary dance on the bigger platforms available in the country at present, because people with authority seem to have fixed ideas about what they want to showcase,” explains Faillul, with Safini nodding in agreement.

For example, at the 2016 Diversecity event, Aswara performed a 90-minute-lon Main Zapin 2016: Akar Budaya Zama, to excellent reviews. Says Safini: “And it’s zapin from us again this year.”

They admit that contemporary dance has a smaller audience compared to traditional performances, but they feels that it is such large-scale platforms that can test the mettle of contemporary dancers and choreographers.

“A mindset change is needed but hopefully Gen Y will be inspired to by Jamu!”

** The article appeared in NST


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