Tari is the largest international dance festival that is sponsored by the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry through the Dance Department of Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara).
With generous support from the government, Malaysia made its mark on the dance map as all the top institutions from the Asia Pacific region turned up in full force to attend what is now one of the most sought after dance festivals in the region amongst educational institutions.
A total of 15 institutions were selected to participate in Tari ’07, which was held at Aswara, in Kuala Lumpur.
The biannual dance festival began in 1994 to launch Akademi Seni Kebangsaan (ASK) as it was then known and the festival now coincides with the development and expansion plans of Aswara, which includes launching new fields of study at undergraduate and post-graduate levels.
This year’s theme, Independence and Identity, gels with the nation’s celebration of its 50th year of independence. As the nation enjoys growth and stability, the focus turns to understanding and preserving our culture and identity.
One of the key components of the festival is its seminars where many papers presented on Dance in Tertiary Education. Compared to Tari 2005, presenters provided even more solid contributions. These will be compiled into a monograph that will record the teaching methods and challenges faced by these institutions and scholarship in the respective countries.
The dialogue and exchange of knowledge that took place strove to further improve standards of teaching, research and performance. The standard of arts education in Malaysia needs to be on par with that of other international institutions. It is heartening to know that the Ministry of Education has recognised the importance of dance education from young. This year, the Ministry had launched two new arts secondary schools in Johor and Sarawak.
The 70 paying participants attended 19 types of workshops, each conducted twice. In one place, and in one week, participants get to learn from prominent lecturers, professional dancers and choreographers from all over the world. The exposure and knowledge gained is tremendous.
For the participants, the total immersion in dance at Tari would leave an impact that would last a lifetime. It ignites enthusiasm, provides inspiration and gives courage particularly to the youth to pursue a career in dance.
“The path is unknown for a dancer. In that sense, it can be scary. Unlike a career in medicine or accountancy where you pretty much know where you’re heading, there is no certainty for a dancer because the industry is not mature,” said Joseph Gonzales, Head of Dance, Aswara. “That is why Tari is such an important platform. We also discuss how to provide the transition for a student into the professional dance circuit, or related or alternative careers.”
The showcases featured some of Malaysia’s leading artistes and dance companies such as Lee Swee Keong, Ajit Baskaran Dass, Dua Space Dance Theatre, Batu Dance Theatre, Temple of Fine Arts; as well as upcoming young artistes Suhaili Ahmad Kamil, Gayathri Vadiveloo, Shafirul Azmi Suhaimi and Liu Yong Sean.
A few international artistes have been invited to perform such as Mark Harvey, Herbert Alvarez, and Lena Ang who will be making her comeback in Kuala Lumpur after a long hiatus.
The showcase performance succeeded in giving a powerful presentation of creativity, independence and identity.
Each institution was required to present twice – once for its main performance, and the other during the Gala Night (July 27) or the Closing Night (July 28).
The most impressive and captivating performance came from The Korean National University of Arts (South Korea) with their piece entitled Space. Two figures in white, lithe and silent, moved amidst the soft lit floor exuding perfectly the emotions held in the voice that sung a Korean folk song.
The other performances that I liked were About Last Night by LaSalle College of the Arts (Singapore), Khaol by Amrita Performing Arts (Cambodia) with their excellent impersonation of Hanuman and an army of monkeys, and Indigo, an upbeat street piece by Aswara. These performances, I felt, had a professional calibre about them.
Both nights held an international flavour as schools from all over the world presented their favourite pieces. They include Dream Flower and Beauty Girl, both by Guang Xi Art Institute (China), Inner Voice by Edith Cowan University (Australia), Folk Bengal and The Rain Drops, the Sun and the Clouds, both by Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe (India), Phantom Masquer by Chinese Culture University (Taiwan), Khatulistiwa by Institut Seni Indonesia Jogjakarta (Indonesia), Ang Kasal by the University of Philippines (Philippines), Tonight by Chinese Culture University (Taiwan), Never Fail Me by Queensland University of Technology (Australia), Angin-Angin by Cultural Center University of Malaya, In Place by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Singapore), Cherd by Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), and the lovely The Troupe and Pacifika, by University of Auckland ( New Zealand).
These performances capped an amazing week that was the seventh Tari festival – and judging from the good response, there will be many more to come.