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Come, Dance Malaysian Style

July 12, 2014 Destination ASEAN No Comments Email Email

Gangnam Style fever is over. Now it is Malaysian dance fever. This Visit Malaysia Year 2014, there are a lot to dance about. 
From the Malaysia International Performing Arts Festival, Borneo Cultural Festival, Sibu International Dance Festival, Sabah International Folklore Festival, there are many exciting festivals and events all year round.

These events frequently showcase a myriad of colourful performances of Malaysia’s multi-ethnic groups resembling a joyous celebration of Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi-cultural heritag. It reflects the peace and harmony, unity and tolerance of Malaysia’s multi-ethnic communities.

Feast your senses on the pomp, splendour and pageantry of these festivals featuring songs, dances, arts, traditions and cuisines of Malaysia. With so many dance activities awaiting your discovery, it will be good to gain an insight into the dance scenes in Malaysia.

Dances of Malaysia

Dancing is part of the activities of Malaysians. While some dance for good health, others dance as a religious obligation, wedding reception, official functions and of course, fun! From a cultural perspective, dance characterises each ethnic group. It projects the rich customs and culture of the community and is varied geographically and culturally from one community to another.

Let us start with the Malay dance. The fast-paced movement of “joget” dance, normally danced by couples is a favourite among tourists. The “joget” introduced to the Malays in Melaka during the early 16th Century was influenced by the popular Portuguese folk dance, the Branjo. The fast hand and leg movements together with the cheerful music beat make “joget” well-liked by both young and old generations. In some instances, tourists who are quite sporting even join in to “joget” together!

“Grace, poise and regal” best describes the “Inang” dance. The dance was performed in palaces during the era of the Malaccan Sultanate. The word “Inang” was derived from the word “Mak Inang”, a nanny who took care of the children. Another Malay dance, the “Zapin” was introduced by the Arab traders and missionaries. The Malay Zapin dance was created with the assimilation of the original Arabic Zapin dance and was popular among the royalty.

Apart from the Malay dance, other ethnic dances in Malaysia like the Chinese and Indian dance have their roots back in the country of origin. Chinese dance dated back over 5,000 years to the Royal Court dances of the semi-divine culture of the Zhou, Tang and Song Dynasties, where the character of the nation was expressed through dance. The dance movements were influenced by folk stories, historic figures and classical myths and legends and expressed the society’s respect for morality, compassion, loyalty, wisdom and trustworthiness. The arrival of Chinese merchants to Melaka centuries ago brought along the art of dancing.

The Chinese lion and dragon dance are two most popular dances in Malaysia. For those who have not seen the lion dance, well, you better catch a glimpse of it. Be captivated by the acrobatic movements of dancers on stilts in their vibrant lion costumes!

The Kun Seng Keng Dragon and Lion Dance Association in Malaysia is a world-class champion lion dance troupe, winning a streak of international awards, such as the Genting World Lion Dance Championship and International Lion Dance Tournament. In fact, Malaysia is known for its immense contributions to the popularity of “the lion dance on stilts”, turning it into a more interesting and popular martial art.

Fancy seeing “Bollywood” dance? Well, one of the oldest dances in the world is the Indian dance. The Indian dance is very much an integral part of worship and prayers in temples and practised by devotees who spent their entire life in the temple. As time has changed, the Indian dance does not just confine to the temple and has become part of the Indian community lifestyle. In Malaysia, the popular classical Indian dances are Odissi and Bharata Natyam.

Datuk Ramli Ibrahim became the first Malaysian to be awarded the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 2011, the highest national honour conferred on performing artists, gurus and scholars of the performing arts. He received the award from the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee for his contributions to Odissi, the oldest surviving Indian dance form.

Folk dance is very much alive in East Malaysia which consists of the states of Sabah and Sarawak. With many indigenous groups, such as Iban, Kenyah, Bidayuh, Kadazan, Bajau and Murut, you will be amazed by the diverse range of dances which are as old as the existence of the tribes! The movement vocabulary of most folk dances is quite simple and the dance phrases and sequences are often repeated. Most depict nature, such as the Sumazau dance, which captures the movements of farmer chasing birds away from his paddy crops.

Besides feasting your eyes on the dance moves, be amazed by the elaborate beautiful costumes of the dancers which are very ornate, with majestic headgear and other accessories such as beads, chains, coins that define the origin of the tribes.

Are you ready to dance with Malaysians?

As a modern nation, Malaysia also offers a pulsating nightlife where you can go merry-making, drinking and dancing in social places. Among them are Zouk, Luna Bar, Beach Club, Hard Rock Café, Nouvo, Little Havana and many more! Like what Cliff Richard sang “Put on your dancing shoes and dance away the blues”, come dance with Malaysians this Visit Malaysia Year 2014. After all, dancing makes you feel vibrant, youthful and most importantly, happy!

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