Poised for flight

New York-bound dancer-chore­og­ra­pher Raz­i­man Sarbini is tak­ing his ca­reer to greater heights.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Arts - By ROUWEN LIN star2@thes­tar.com.my

IN a month’s time, Raz­i­man Sarbini will be on a plane head­ing to New York, this jour­ney half­way across the world mark­ing the start of yet an­other ad­ven­ture for this young man from Lim­bang, Sarawak. For the next three years, the tal­ented dancer, a re­cip­i­ent of a schol­ar­ship from Yayasan Sarawak Tunku Abdul Rahman, will be pur­su­ing a Mas­ters in Fine Arts at the New York Univer­sity’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“I’m very ex­cited about this, it is more than a dream come true!” gushes Raz­i­man, 25, the youngest of eight chil­dren.

“New York is the place where many in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies per­form, they will do open classes, work­shops and au­di­tions. I met with some teach­ers and stu­dents from the univer­sity last year, the ex­pe­ri­ence was re­ally in­spir­ing. This was in­stru­men­tal in my de­cid­ing to fur­ther my stud­ies in New York and work in a new en­vi­ron­ment,” he adds.

Never in his wildest dreams would he have imag­ined be­ing where he is to­day, he con­fides. He cer­tainly wasn’t born with danc­ing shoes on his feet; in school, he was an ath­lete and thor­oughly en­joyed sports.

But a turn­ing point came in the form of an Amer­i­can dance com­pe­ti­tion show he saw on tele­vi­sion when he was 18.

“I watched So You Think You Can Dance and was blown away by the abil­ity of the dancers to do crazy move­ments that I did not even think was pos­si­ble for hu­mans!” he re­calls.

Back then, the only kind of dance he knew was tra­di­tional dance and aer­o­bics, so the dance show re­ally opened up his eyes. “Af­ter I saw that show, I re­ally wanted to try to be­come like them. Since many of these move­ments were very ath­letic, I was at­tracted to the phys­i­cal­ity of it, and the abil­ity to pro­duce or por­tray emo­tion,” he muses.

The fol­low­ing year, he put in an ap­pli­ca­tion to the Na­tional Academy of Arts, Cul­ture and Her­itage (Aswara) in KL, went for an au­di­tion, and got ac­cepted.

“My com­ing to Aswara was filled with in­se­cu­ri­ties be­cause I did not have a strong foun­da­tion in dance, nor had I any real ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

But it so turned out to the a step in the right di­rec­tion for him.

“Study­ing at Aswara was in­ter­est­ing and also very chal­leng­ing. There was so much to learn, I had no idea if I could be­come good, but I was sur­prised at my de­vel­op­ment and growth. The teach­ers at the fac­ulty of dance were just so amaz­ing and pa­tient with me, it just seemed that I was at the right place at the right time,” he re­lates.

“Raz­i­man brings an in­tense en­ergy, mag­netism, mu­si­cal­ity and pro­fes­sion­al­ism on­stage. He draws his au­di­ences into his space and shares that pas­sion for dance, mak­ing ev­ery­one want to be a part of his ex­pe­ri­ence. This is a re­sult of ta­lent he has been blessed with and years of dili­gent prac­tice,” says the now Hong Kong-based Joseph Gon­za­les, founder and artis­tic di­rec­tor of ASK Dance Com­pany, and for­mer dean of dance at Aswara.

Fast for­ward seven years, here Raz­i­man is now, one foot on home soil and the other ready to step out into the great un­known.

“To­day, dance is a huge part of my life, it is some­thing that has al­ready made for an in­ter­est­ing life so far, and now it is go­ing to be a ca­reer. My ul­ti­mate dream is to work with a pro­fes­sional dance com­pany, for in­stance, Bal­letBoyz in Bri­tain, Ned­er­lands Dans Theatre in the Nether­lands, Bat­sheva Dance Theatre in Is­rael, or even qual­ify for So You Think You Can Dance in Amer­ica. How amaz­ing would that be!” says Raz­i­man.

Closer to home, he shares that he would like to con­trib­ute to build­ing the dance scene in Malaysia, par­tic­u­larly in his home state of Sarawak.

“There is Seko­lah Seni Malaysia and Univer­siti Sarawak Malaysia, but I be­lieve it is not enough. We must all work to­gether to el­e­vate the stan­dard of dance in Malaysia,” he says.

Be­fore Raz­i­man leaves for the US, he will present No. 7, a two-day mixed bill per­for­mance, at the Da­mansara Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre (DPac), start­ing to­day. The per­for­mance com­prises four works. This pro­duc­tion is in­tended to be a fundraiser to cover some of his ex­penses abroad, and at the same time help raise the pro­file of dance and dancers who wish to pur­sue their dreams.

Three of these dance pieces, Jour­ney, Un­ti­tled and No. 7, will see their pre­miere at this per­for­mance, while Dikir, an ab­strac­tion of the tra­di­tional folk dance theatre of Ke­lan­tan that ex­plores the theme of power, has pre­vi­ously been pre­sented in sev­eral na­tional and in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals.

“No. 7 is about me, how I got here and where I am to­day. Most of the im­por­tant peo­ple in my life are in this show, so it feels per­sonal and spe­cial. I would also like to share these pre­cious 75 min­utes with the Malaysian au­di­ence be­fore I leave for Amer­ica, and ask for their bless­ings and their well wishes for this jour­ney be­cause we all need sup­port for a life in the arts,” he says.

He will be danc­ing in his solo piece, Jour­ney, as well as part­ner­ing with the award-win­ning Suhaili Miche­line in No. 7 (which she chore­ographed). He will also be ap­pear­ing in the other two pieces.

Cur­rently a prin­ci­pal dancer with home­grown con­tem­po­rary dance com­pany ASK Dance Com­pany, Raz­i­man has toured to sev­eral coun­tries. No­table per­for­mances this year in­clude the Yoko­hama Dance Col­lec­tion in Ja­pan, the Shan­tanand Fes­ti­val in In­dia and the May­bank Per­for­mance in Lon­don. Last year, he pre­sented I am from 2020 by Taiwanese chore­og­ra­pher Ting Ting Chang for the KL In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val.

“I re­ally be­lieve that per­for­mance is about shar­ing. It is about giv­ing and it is about telling sto­ries, or con­vey­ing emo­tions. Dance is a non-ver­bal art form, which means it leaves a lot of room for dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions,” says the Aswara grad­u­ate, whose train­ing in­cluded bal­let and con­tem­po­rary dance, clas­si­cal and folk dance, im­pro­vi­sa­tion and chore­og­ra­phy, as well as sound the­o­ret­i­cal ground­ing in per­for­mance stud­ies, his­tory, ped­a­gogy, eth­nol­ogy and crit­i­cism. Raz­i­man com­pleted his stud­ies at Aswara on the Dean’s List and was awarded the Best Dance Grad­u­ate 2015.

Raz­i­man shares that it is through dance that he has learned how to bet­ter ex­press emo­tions and tell sto­ries.

“Dance is not just about beauty, it is about sto­ry­telling and con­nect­ing with peo­ple. I be­lieve that I have be­come a bet­ter per­son through dance, it means ev­ery­thing to me. But I am still small, there is so much more to learn. You can have ta­lent, but with­out dis­ci­pline and com­mit­ment, you can be­come so lost. I re­mind my­self every day to re­main hum­ble like the padi in the field, to be re­spect­ful and to keep on learn­ing,” he says.

Raz­i­man is well aware that it is some­times from un­likely be­gin­nings that great things are born. And he is deter­mined to see it through.

No. 7 is on at Black­box Theatre, Da­mansara Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre, H-01, Em­pire Da­mansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Pe­tal­ing Jaya, Se­lan­gor to­day (8.30pm) and to­mor­row (3pm). Tick­ets: RM55. Visit: www.dpac.com. my or call 03-4065 0001/0002.

‘At the mo­ment, I find it in­ter­est­ing to see what comes out of com­bin­ing tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary el­e­ments in my work,’ says Raz­i­man, who shares that he is cur­rently ‘very move­ment driven’. — CLASH DONERRIN

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