Seven dancers will be on stage, performing to Baharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form. None of the dancers are Indian. Read this interview where three dancers talk about learning a dance form that is not from their culture.
Headline: Dancing To An Indian Beat
By Bissme S
Seven dancers from the Akademi Seni Budaya & Warisan Kebangsaa (Aswara) will be presenting a Bharatanatyam performance depicting episodes from the famous Ramayana at Lambang Sari, Istana Budaya, from this Friday to Sunday.
This classical Indian dance form is one of the mandatory dances taught to Aswara students for the past 10 years. However, what makes this performance unique is that al seven dancers are not Indians.
The dancers – Kimberly Yap, Mohd Imran Syafiq, Ng Xin Ying, Khairi Mokthar, Norbaizura Abdul Ghani, Christine Chew,and Mohd Yunus Ismail – have all successfully completed theirArangetram (graduation ceremony) under the guidance of well-known dancer Shankar Kandasamy from The Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur.
Their 80-minute crosscultural dance performance called Crossing Borders has been staged a few times in Kuala Lumpur and even in India, in conjunction with the 2014 International Music and Dance Festival.
Mohd Yunus, who is also the dean of the dance faculty at Aswara, says: “The audience and
media from India were happy to see [people of] different races performing [the Bharatanatyam].”
The first time Mohd Yunus caught a Bharatanatyam performance was when he was 15, during a talent show at his school.
“I was not captivated by the dance form then,” he recalls.
But when he came to Aswara and it was mandatory to learn the Bharatanatyam, his dance master
Shankar opened his eyes to the beauty of this dance form and encouraged him to master it.
Like Mohd Yunus, fellow lecturers and dancers Norbaizura and Ng also first discovered the beauty of Bharatanatyam at Aswara.
“It is not an easy dance to master,” Norbaizura says.
“You have to move every part of your body, and you must get your facial expressions right.”
Ng says initially, she wanted to master contemporary dance, and to just pass the Bharatanatyam.
However, she slowly began to become more interested in it.
“I got [inspired by] both of them (Yunus and Norbaizura) who are my seniors,” says Ng.
“What makes me like this dance form is that you’re required to have strong stamina and good body coordination. It pushes your limits.”
Some have praised them for performing this difficult dance form but there are others who
believe they are ‘bastardising’ it, since they are not Indians.
“I will never get angry with any comments thrown at me,”says Mohd Yunus.
“I will listen to them and I will try to improve on my dancing skills. [Criticism] is normal if you are an artiste. It is when you do not get criticism that you should be worried.”
The dancers also see nothing wrong with them learning and performing dances from different
Mohd Yunus explains: “You can find a Malay eating Indian curries and Chinese yong tau foo.
You can also find a Malay wearing the sari, or the cheongsam.So why can’t we master a beautiful dance form from [another] race?”