Dancer, ev­er­last­ing

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ARTS -

in three works: Claude De­bussy’s Prélude L’après-Midi d’un Faune ( Pre­lude To The Af­ter­noon Of A Faun), Mau­rice Ravel’s Shéhérazade (fea­tur­ing Pe­nang-born, Hun­gar­ian-based so­prano YiL­ing Chaing) and Igor Stravin­sky’s The Fire­bird Suite.

Start­ing the evening was Ramli, tak­ing up the faun’s role in Pre­lude To The Af­ter­noon Of A Faun. The clas­si­cal piece, pop­u­larised by Rus­sian bal­let dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Vaslav Ni­jin­sky, is a mu­si­cal evo­ca­tion of French poet Stéphane Mal­larmé’s poem Af­ter­noon Of A Faun, in which a faun – a half-man, half-goat crea­ture of an­cient Greek leg­end – meets sev­eral nymphs. They awaken his sen­sual side, be­fore he chases them away.

Nu­ances of odissi and bal­let were ram­pant in Ramli’s solo, which saw him ex­plor­ing his un­tamed side, with a fair amount of ag­gres­sion and grace. By na­ture, goats are be­lieved to be in­tel­li­gent, sen­si­tive, play­ful, af­fec­tion­ate and quick to re­spond to in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion. Ramli por­trayed this well and clearly, he en­joyed dancing this par­tic­u­lar piece.

Once “sa­ti­ated” on stage, Ramli sent the nymphs away. He pre­ferred to be on his own, dancing with ec­stasy and a smile plas­tered on his face.

At 61, Ramli proved that age is cer­tainly no bar­rier in light­ing up the stage at the DFP.

In Shéhérazade, based on the mag­i­cally evoca­tive song cy­cle from One Thou­sand And One Nights, we saw the Western in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Asie (Asia) be­ing ex­plored. Ramli took on the role of the ma­jes­tic king, of­ten dancing with a wan­derer who en­coun­ters the ex­otic for the first time.

Ramli wasn’t alone in lift­ing this show sky­wards. The Dua Space and Su­tra dancers col­lab­o­rated well in this ef­fort, with re­splen­dent cos­tumes de­signed by Melinda Looi and Datuk Bernard Chan­dran.

The pa­rade by the roy­als, the walk about by the people and the dis­cov­ery of sights and sounds seemed like reg­u­lar scenes of ev­ery­day life. But the au­di­ence kept their at­ten­tion. What stood out was Chaing’s haunt­ing voice. She dis­played a rich mid­dle reg­is­ter, which proved so ap­pro­pri­ate for this reper­toire.

In Fire­bird, we saw Ramli pro­duc­ing a new work that could eas­ily be his best con­tem­po­rary at­tempt to date. The bal­let, orig­i­nally pre­sented by Rus­sian chore­og­ra­pher Michel Fokine, is based on the Rus­sian leg­end of Fire­bird, a pow­er­ful good spirit whose feath­ers sup­pos­edly con­vey beauty and pro­tec­tion upon the earth.

In an ear­lier in­ter­view, Ramli had said, “I’ve never seen the Fire­bird bal­let be­fore be­cause I didn’t want to be in­flu­enced by the chore­og­ra­phy so what you’re go­ing to see is com­pletely out of this world.” In­deed it was. The Dua Space dancers’ pow­er­ful, en­er­getic move­ments com­bined with Su­tra dancers lithe­some bod­ies and grace lent a stark con­trast, but came out beau­ti­fully when put to­gether.

The duet be­tween Fire­bird and the prince was a de­light to watch. And the princess, ahhh ... the debu­tante princess was truly charm­ing in a fairy­tale-like man­ner.

The en­chanted tree (danced by Su­tra’s Guna) had a quirky char­ac­ter, which was en­ter­tain­ing to watch, es­pe­cially when dancing with the maid­ens. He would pul­sate wildly, rat­tling his leaves and ap­pear com­pletely per­plexed when the “shed­ding” was tak­ing place (in the orig­i­nal plot, he is a magic ap­ple tree). And the evil ma­gi­cian, big and in­tim­i­dat­ing, was not to be over­shad­owed ei­ther.

The en­ergy was in­fec­tious as they played off each other to ar­rive at the hap­pily-ever-af­ter con­clu­sion, be­fore a ju­bi­lant Ramli took his bow. Six decades later, he’s still go­ing strong.

Pe­nang-born, Hun­gary-based

(Clock­wise from top) There were el­e­ments of cru­elty and slav­ery in Shéhérazade; so­prano yiL­ing Chaing was a de­light to watch; datuk ramli ibrahim hasn’t lost the abil­ity to mes­merise an au­di­ence; the duet by Fire­bird and the Prince was spec­tac­u­lar; the en­chanted tree (danced by Guna) had a char­ac­ter all its own.

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