By Meena Sreenivasan

Bernard Shaw once said “There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it”. The same thing can be said about Dance. There is no such thing as good and bad dance. There is only dance. A showcase of stimulating dance-theatre creations, carefully curated to rediscover our heritage will be presented during the month-long Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival (KLIAF) 2015. Beginning September 3 to October 4 at Istana Budaya and Auditorium DBKL, it will feature a total of 12 enthralling premieres which will take on both national and international performances.

(above) Ganjam, an odissi dance composition by Sutra Foundation, weaves around several dialectic forms

The Dance genre component of KLIAF 2015, known as the Kuala Lumpur International Dance Festival 2015 will serve as a comprehensive platform and umbrella for a showcase of stimulating dance-theatre creations. Carefully curated with a theme “Rediscovering Heritage”, audience will be visually treated to a transformation of traditions into relevant contemporary offerings. Kuala Lumpur International Dance Festival curator and dance maestro, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim (main picture), has cleverly concocted a magical array of talents for this dance festival. “Never before has Malaysia experienced a treasure trove of 12 world premieres – that too of various dance-theatre genres within a period of one month, making the Festival a dance playground Kuala Lumpur has ever seen,” he said.

(above) Tepak Tari by MyDance Alliance

“Sutra Foundation for the entire month, has brought together major dance players in Malaysia – institutions and their artistic directors, individual choreographers, composers, lighting and set designers, who will synergize their creative energy in an integrated effort to give KLIAF 2015 a truly original and stimulating artistic fiesta. As we all know, culture and arts has always been the antidote to lift flagged spirits,” Ramli added. Sutra Foundation will present the highlight of the dance festival, entitled Ganjam. An odissi dance composition, it pays homage to the culturally potent region of Southern Odisha, home ground of some of Odisha’s eminent medieval composers, poets and literary figures. “We have engaged a new and adventurous repertoire from Guru Gajendra Panda, who, inspired by the folk dances and musical traditions of rural Ganjam, infuse fresh energy and vocabulary to Sutra’s odissi. The dance composition will be accompanied by musicians from Odisha,” he pointed out.

(above) Anuraag, a solo bharatanatyam performance by Hema Nandhini

“This production is not intended to tilt the balance which exists in odissi in favour of Ganjam. Neither does it offer a counter poise. It is intended to stand for the spirit of unexplored beauty that could be part of present day odissi. It attempts to inject the ingenious creativity and artfulness – inspired by the folk and rural forms from the cultural rich Ganjam – imbuing present day odissi with a spirit of endless discovery,” highlighted Ramli. According to Ramli, except for Ganjam (Odissi) by Sutra and one solo bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) by Hema Nandhini entitled Anuraag, most of the works are contemporary. Ramli believes that the spirit of modern contemporary permeates through even traditional works, especially in our Asian society where traditional and modern works are contemporaneous in the same frame. “Within both the contemporary traditional and modern, there is a creative continuum, which is why we want to celebrate this festival. Thematically, it’s not as much as wanting to define ‘modernity’, rather, to ‘revel’ in this creativity,” he explained. Ramli further added, “I am interested to encourage and catalyse the creation of a body of original Malaysian dance-theatre works. If we are able to be convincing in this effort, the brand building and marketing of a Kuala Lumpur Arts Festival can be more credible and justified.”

(above) The Tree by Dua Space

“We are not averse to having global and international points of embarkation but our own indigenous potentials should not be disregarded. There is a need to give credence to serious creativity within our own sphere to forge originality, as opposed to preoccupying ourselves with the tried-and-tested “commercial” and “derivative” varieties – especially when these usually come as third-hand consumer junk fodder,” he stressed. “How can we truly value, brand and market a Festival that does not first have a body of original indigenous product? Therefore, the raison d’entre of the festival is primarily artistic – that is to explore creativity, unmotivated by any other agendas. “The Festival hopes to harness the creative potential of our diverse cultures. The Dance component is also about multi-disciplinary collaborations. Hence, choreography, dance, music, lighting, set, fashion and graphic design must meet in an explosive creative cauldron” Ramli articulated.

KLIAF 2015 will present new works from Aswara, Dua Space Dance Theatre, Temple of Fine Arts, Alamak Entertainment, Sutra Foundation, MyDance Alliance and UPSI which in turn will collaborate with their own pool of choreographers and artist talents. The GuoGuang Opera (Taiwan) from Taiwan and Aseema Trust (Chennai) will show how Chinese Opera and Indian folk dances can be relevant and simultaneously be part of current contemporary traditions. Talented Hema Nandhini (bharatanatyam), Kimball Gallegher (international pianist), Chaing YiLing (soprano), Sangeeta Isvaran and Suresh Kaliyath will give the accent and flavour for a truly comprehensive festival. There will also be exhibitions at DBKL Auditorium and Istana Budaya as well as free lecture-demonstrations for everyone to participate in.

For detailed information of each programme and for tickets please visit www.klidance.com