Promising young talent
Universiti Malaya’s recent dance showcase proved that the performing arts students are en route to greater heights.
COUPLES wearing traditional tengkolok and sarung waved brightly coloured handkerchiefs as they shimmied their shoulders cheekily. Performers in fedoras, ties and 1920s style waistcoats snapped their fingers and stamped their feet to create their own rhythm. Men moved with raw masculine power in a dance of bonding and betrayal.
All these elements were on stage at the recent Universiti Malaya Dance Showcase Semester II and UMa Contemporary Dance Showcase 2012, which took place at the Panggung Eksperimental, Dewan Tunku Canselor, Universiti Malaya (UM) on May 16 and17.
Featuring 32 students from the university’s dance programme showing off their fanciest moves, the showcase proved to be an enjoyable display of young enthusiasm and promising new talent. Emceeing for the night was MyDance Alliance president Bilqis Hijjas, who shared fascinating background information about each dance in between performances.
Starting the night off was the Tarian Mengadap Rebab, the opening dance in a Makyong theatre. One of the most complicated and elaborate pieces in Makyong, the piece featured many intricate and complex hand and finger gestures which were executed competently by the performers.
This was followed by a medley of dances by KESUMA, UM’s traditional dance ensemble, which featured traditional Malay dances such as Tarian Inang Cik Minah Sayang and Zapin Pekan.
One piece that proved fun to watch was the Joget Serampang 12, a piece choreographed by the renowned master teacher Sauti. Featuring flighty, near-flirtatious movements to a catchy, up-tempo beat, the performers showed off impressive footwork as they twirled around the stage gracefully, often moving in circles to represent the crazy nature of courtship.
The traditional dance segment was followed by a display of the final projects from classes like jazz and dance music.
One of the strongest pieces of the night was from the Composition and Improvisation class, which saw a contemporary dance to Dinah Washington and Max Richter’s This Bitter Earth/On The Nature Of Daylight, choreographed by Lim Shin Hui and Muhammad Syafiqq Hambali.
Both dressed in black, and utilising a single chair as a prop, Lim and Syafiqq were mesmerising to watch, their fluid and flexible hand and leg gestures exuding both power and vulnerability. Haunting and stark, with a mild undercurrent of despair bubbling beneath it, the performance was remarkably choreographed and performed, with some of its moments sticking in the mind even after the show was over.
Another memorable performance was from the students of the Ballroom Dance class, who performed a combination of salsa, cha-cha and the jive to a medley of popular dance numbers such as Lets Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez.
The dancers were certainly dressed to kill, with the ladies looking gorgeous in fiery, red-hot dresses, and the men dapper in white shirts, bow ties and sashes. Burning up the dance floor with their sultry moves, the ballroom dancers proved to be extremely popular with the applauding audience.
The last part of the show featured short contemporary dance works choreographed by part-time instructors and postgraduate students, on behalf of UMa Dance Company, the performing entity of the Dance Department, which is now into its eighth year.
One of the highlights of this segment was Luah, performed by Syafizal-Syazlee Salehud-din. As suggested by the title, the piece was an emotional exploration of a son expressing his love for his mother. Dressed in a white singlet and grey shorts, Syafizal was captivating to watch as he moved gracefully to a melodic rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star interspersed with children’s chatter and other ambient noises.
At times leaping and bounding, at times infusing his steps with heaviness, Syafizal’s dance perfectly captured the awkward excitement of childhood, which he emphasised with movements such as rocking his arms while pretending to hold an infant. The end of his dance, where he momentarily danced in silence, perhaps to represent the transition into adulthood, was a nice touch.
The night ended with Story, choreographed by Hii Ing Fung and performed by dancers Chew Kai Min and Soh Shze The. Moving and evocative, the piece explored themes of loss, memory and human connection, with Chew and Soh adopting graceful, almost fey-like movements as their bodies wove a bittersweet tale of childhood friends whose love was not meant to be. Invoking innocence first, then flirtation, and finally passion, Hii’s choreography was consistently enjoyable to watch.
The show did have some minor flaws, with some performers somewhat wooden or shaky, but that can perhaps be chalked up to inexperience or stage fright. Generally, the dances were all performed well, and the effort and passion put in by the university’s young performers should be commended.
Overall, the UM Dance Showcase was a fine display of some of the country’s promising dance talents, which may well inspire its viewers to immerse themselves in the performing arts in future.