Friday, November 27, 2009

Put your best foot forward - Dance!

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


  1. Wow! you have been buzy!! Nice post!

  2. Thanks for sharing this wonderful learning experience of yours. I love to dance and I am good at it. I just wish I could have it as my profession. Thanks for visiting my blog too, I appreciate it.

  3. This is such a wonderful information to know! The dances sound great!

  4. Loved this post - particularly the part about Bharatnatyam as I studied it at school, and seeing the teacher Shamala brought back memories of my own teacher. I don't remember her name, only that she used to call her favourite students 'cutlets' :)

  5. Hi
    Emily, thanks for your vote! sure am busy! Do look out for ASWARA performances in the media. There's more to enjoy.

    Ruthi, thanks for popping in. Glad I found a dancer:) BTw, perhaps you could share your experiences as a dancer.What dance do you do?

    Icy BC, there's always a platform to showcase our dances for everyone to enjoy. The variety is amazing.

    Shaista, glad you enjoyed this post. Ha! ha! hope she didn't have a bite of her 'cutlets' when a step was amiss!! LOL! I bet you enjoyed the dressing up for the Bharatnaytam too.

  6. ooops, I could never ever dance like 'Boy'. I've been to Malaysia, seen beautiful dances/dancers - but for a Scandinavian - impossible to learn your beautiful movements! But. I can enjoy watching!

  7. Hi BLOGitse, glad to know you've visited Malaysia. I would love to visit Scandinavia but have not gone so far up on the globe!! The classical dances need strict discipline. When the dancers dance, we enjoy:))

  8. Hi Keats! Where's Jalan Tun Ismail, please? I love how the arts (dance, drama and everything in between) truly does bridge differences between faiths and cultures in our country.

  9. Hi ~Covert_Operations'78~,sorry, for this late reply.

    Hi ~Covert_Operations'78~, you'll find ASWARA in the vicinity of the car park of Padang Merbok. I'm an arts fan too and will gladly enjoy things related.

  10. Hunting for useful sources that can help you to learn dance online is really time-consuming. However, if you are getting tired of searching for such resources over the internet, visit the website and go through dance directories.

  11. i'm study at there and i love that place. the place that i know everything and learn something new about traditional art. mostly in shadow puppet.


Great to have you popping in!