By Dennis Chua – January 27, 2018 @ 8:23am
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ACCLAIMED dancer and choreographer Datuk Ramli Ibrahim said being honoured with India’s fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri, for distinguished service in the arts, had placed him “on top of the world”.
Ramli, 64, said it was the “pinnacle of his lifelong love affair with dance”.
He will officially receive the award from Indian President Ram Nath Kovind in March, and has dedicated it to Malaysians who shared his passion for the performing arts.
“I’ve have loved dancing since I was a teenager. My four decades as a dancer has been nothing short of an incredible journey,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
“I have always been fascinated with Indian classical dance because of our country’s ancient ties with South Asia. Acquiring the love of Indian culture and history drew me towards the arts of the region.”
Ramli, who was trained in ballet and Odissi (dance from Odisha), is the founder and head of the 35-year-old Sutra Dance Theatre in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur.
He and his students have performed in 131 international cities and conducted outreach programmes, teaching rural schoolchildren classical dance.
“I believe that starting young is the best way to master traditional dance. However, getting young people who are committed and passionate is difficult — everyone wants instant gratification these days.
“Nevertheless, I believe that there will always be uncut gems waiting to be discovered, and as long as I’m fit, strong and alert, I’ll do my best to guide them.”
Ramli is one of 10 individuals from Asean countries to be given the Padma Shri award in conjunction with India’s 25th anniversary of dialogue partnership with the bloc.
The award acknowledges his role in promoting Indian dance via performances and training, and the setting up of Sutra Dance Theatre.
Ramli’s dance productions, such as the Odissi showcase, Ganjam, have received critical acclaim in India.
Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian honour in India.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the Indian government had announced the award for one person from each Asean nation.
The other Asean recipients of Padma Shri awards are Brunei’s Malai Abdullah Malai Othman for medicine, Indonesian sculptor I Nyoman Nuarta, Singaporean diplomat Tommy Koh, Thailand’s supreme patriarch Somdet Phra Ariya Wongsa Khottayan, Vietnam Buddhist Sangha secretary-general Nguyen Tien Thien, Philippine businessman Jose Ma Joey Concepcion III, Myanmar historian Thant Myint-U, Laotian architect Bounlap Keokangna and Cambodia’s youngest parliamentarian Hun Many.
Ramli was previously awarded India’s prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2011, the first for a Malaysian.