Two visits to the the National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy ( ASWARA : Malay acronym for Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan) and how do I begin to talk about dance? At best, the waltz doesn't glide well when I'm on the floor!
However after meeting a friendly bunch of teachers and students, it was not difficult to get into the pysche of these dancers and their dance world. I could feel their energy pulsating as they talked about their daily love. Granted, dance is work and work can be tiring.
Joseph Gonzales, Head of the Dance Dept and his colleague, En Ngadap, lecturer and administrator at ASWARA
Joseph Gonzales,head of the Dance department, was at a ballet class with the Diploma dance students, putting them through their paces, correcting their hand and body postures. I signalled to him that I would like to take some pictures and he gestured to snap away!! Visitors are not infrequent at ASWARA.
Later, when I caught him at lunch with his colleague, lecturer and administrator, Encik Ngadap, he did not mince his words that at ASWARA, ' It's not only about learning art forms. It is about understanding and bridging cultures among the races. It's about promoting deeper understanding.'
His emphatic message reminds me of a Malay proverb' Tak kenal maka tak cinta'. Translated, it means ' one is able to appreciate and value other people's ways, beliefs and cultures when one knows about them'. Yes, understanding, learning, infusing, all come together to bridge differences.
At ASWARA , the students have a wholesome curriculum pursuing the Diploma ( 2 years) and Bachelor degree of Performing Arts ( 3 years). It is the only higher institute of learning in Malaysia that provides formal training courses in arts/culture and heritage to Malaysians.
Students obliging me with a pose as they wait for their turns at the exam. Doing the tari asyik, a Kelantan royal court dance
I was delighted to witness so much youth energy , all directed towards the different dance forms there. Obviously, a new generation of talents is being groomed for the performing arts scene. When I spoke to some of the Diploma students, they were happy in this chosen path ( at least for now) They want to take it to another level , the tougher Bachelor degree to commit themselves to the arts. After that, time alone will tell or rather passion will help then decide.
Affectionately nicknamed 'Boy' as his name is not easy to pronounce, filling me on the types of dances the students perform.
'Boy' from Labuan, was heading a ballet practice. I could see that he's heart and soul into dancing and he was glad to have been in different overseas destinations like London and New York, promoting traditional Malay dances, contemporary and Mongolian dances.
Going through the strict paces of the Bharatnatyam, a traditional classical Indian dance with guru, Sharmala.
Two teachers from the Temple of Fine Arts were holding court with some students in the Bharatnytam, an Indian classical dance. Strict timing and the handling of body postures were pointed out by Shamala , the teacher who was totally in control of her class. Her keen eyes spotted every minor inaccuracies and they were corrected there and then as she drummed the floor with a stick to keep rhythm.The students were practising word for word , line expression of the Dance of Joy by Lord Shiva.
I enjoyed myself at ASWARA. Everyone was so friendly and willing to talk about what they do. Thanks! I did not go away not having a taste of dance. The students at the joget class taught me how to to do the joget. I didn't do so well - I did all the wrong things - flailed my arms, twisted my wrists into ugly knots. But they were forgiving. Yes, learning an art takes time. But first, comes LOVE for it.
Doing the joget, a quick, rhythmic Malay folk dance by couples.
Keep it up, ASWARA! Hold fast to your motto,' 'Moving forward with tradition'.
464, Jalan Tun Ismail
50480 Kuala Lumpur
tel: + 603 2697 1777