Finally, DiverseCity: KL International Dance Festival 2015 was launched at the Le Meridian in the attendance of its stakeholders – including DBKL and Tourism Malaysia respectively represented by the KL Mayor, Datuk Seri Phesal Taib and Tourism Malaysia, represented by Dato’ Mirza Taiyab. Festival Director, Datin Sunita Rajakumar gave a rousing and comprehensive overview what the Festival raison d’etre and objectives were. The five festival curators, Ramli Ibrahim (Dance), Michael Veerapen (Music), Harith Iskandar (Comedy), Eddin Khoo (Traditional) and Mohd Khair Ngairidon (Literature) presented their program line-up for this huge Festival undertaking.

For sure, the Dance Component of DiverseCity: Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival 2015 (KLIAF) is the ultimate platform and umbrella for a very focused showcase of stimulating dance-theatre creations. Sutra Foundation conjures a stellar group of Malaysian dance-makers in a month long exposition of their newest works. Never before has Malaysia experienced a treasure trove of 12 world premieres of various dance-theatre genres within a period of one month, making the Festival a veritable dance-playground and dance-crazy period KL has ever seen. KLIAF is making its own history! It’s about time that Kuala Lumpur has its culture brand in the form of an Arts Festival!

As curator of the dance component of KLIAF, Sutra Foundation has commissioned major dance players in Malaysia – institutions and their artistic directors, individual choreographers, composers, lighting and set designers – to synergise in an integrated effort to give KLIAF a truly original and stimulating artistic fiesta. Admit it, we Malaysians are presently caught in a mire of negativity. Enough of the denial! Let’s see whether culture and arts can truly lift flagged spirits out of the doldrums. The curated dance-theatre productions have a thematic thrust – i.e. to rediscover our heritage – and to restate, redefine and engage cherished traditions in its transformation into relevant contemporary outpourings.

KL is build on the rich diversity present in our traditions, be it food, fashion, dance, music, arts or literature. These should be a well of resource for creative inspirations. Expect to be surprised by the transformation of many of the things we have taken for granted morphing into something new, original and current!

Ramli Ibrahim in discussion with Datuk Seri Phesal, Mayor of KL.

What are the institutions and who are the dance-makers involved?

KLIAF will present new works from ASWARA, Dua Space Dance Theatre, Temple of Fine Arts, Alamak Wakaka, Sutra Foundation, MyDance Alliance and UPSI which in turn will collaborate with their own pool choreographers and artist talents. GuoGuang Opera (Taiwan) from Taiwan and Aseema Trust (Chennai) lead the way to show us how Chinese Opera and Indian folk dance can be relevant and simultaneously be part of current contemporary traditions. We are also presenting individual artists in special signature programs to link the diverse genres of dance-theatre. Talented Hema Nandhini (bharatanatyam), Kimball Gallagher (international pianists), Chaing YiLing (soprano), Sangeeta Isvaran and Suresh Kaliyath will give the accent and flavour for a truly comprehensive festival.

Dato’ Mirza Taiyah (DG Tourism Malaysia), Michael Veerapen (curator, Music),

Harith Iskandar (curator, Comedy), Datin Sunita Rajakumar (Festival Director),
Datuk Seri Phesal Taib (Mayor of KL), Ramli Ibrahim (curator, Dance), 
Eddin Khoo (curator, Traditional),
Mohd Khair Ngairidon (Director ITBM, curator Literature).

What is the thematic thrust of this Dance Festival?

Except for one solo bharatanatyam by Hema Nandhini and Ganjam (Odissi) by Sutra, most of the works have a distinctive contemporary thrust. I consider that even these two productions are relevant contemporary renditions where the thread of ‘modern’ spirit is celebrated and kept alive and relevant. Yes, we believe that the spirit of modern contemporaneity permeates through even traditional works especially in our Asian society where traditional and modern works are contemporaneous in the same time frame. Within both the contemporary traditional and modern there is a creative continuum, which we want to celebrate in this festival. Thematically, we not as much want to define ‘modernity’ but to ‘revel’ in this creativity.

Curators at press Q & A session together with Mayor of KL, Datuk Seri Phesal Taib


January Low, Bilqis Hijjas (MyDance Alliance), Ramli, Alam and The Star.

What are the challenges involved in staging a Festival of this magnitude?

The artists are in one voice in putting their synnergised efforts into this festival. We have some of the biggest names in the artistic and entertainment business giving their all to the Festival. We believe that this is what KL presently needs. Personally, the major challenge is dependent on the support we have from the government and KL City Council to give us all green lights – the access to venue, promotion, ease of licenses, visa – everything! The Ministry (Tourism & Culture) and DBKL must give their support to us at all levels to create KLIAF the most exciting cultural and artistic event KL has ever experienced – Not for any other agendas but just to celebrate this wonderful intrinsic quality unique to KL – its diversity in Culture and Arts. We are letting the creative floodgate open and let the people celebrate!

Ramli Ibrahim
Curator, DANCE
Sutra Foundation


Members of Diversity Team – Festival director, Sponsors,  curators and artists
at Le Meridian launching of KLIAF 2015

Photo courtesy by S Magen