In praise of zapin
> Aswara is showcasing this traditional Malay dance at Panggung Experiment this Friday and Saturday
THE DANCE Faculty of Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) has always produced memorable dance performances.
Aswara’s latest show, the 90minute Main Zapin 2016: Akar Budaya Zaman which highlights this traditional Malay dance form, is likely to be another success under its belt.
Aswara’s Dance Faculty dean Mohd Yunus Aliallah, who is also the artistic director for the show, explains that zapin originally came from the Middle East, and that Arab traders brought the dance to Malaysia centuries ago.
“You can see the Islamic and Arabic influences in zapin,” he says.
Since 2010, Aswara has been sending its lecturers to learn zapin from the old dance masters in different states. These lecturers then brought back the knowledge gained to impart to their students.
“We wanted the students to see the differences between zapin dances from different states,” says Mohd Yunus. “Now, we want the audience to have the same experience that our students have had.”
Syed Haziq Afiqi, a dancer and arranger for the show, says that each state in Malaysia has adapted zapin to suit its surroundings and culture.
“[That’s why] zapin is different from one state to another,” he says. “In one state, the dancers use more of their hands, and in another state, the dancers use more of their hips.
“In this show, we will try to present zapin from all the 14 states in Malaysia.”
The show will include 40 dancers and about 80 crew members.
“Audiences love watching traditional dance performances compared to contemporary dances,” says Al-Jabar Laura, another dancer and arranger for the show.
“However, if you [stage] an Indian traditional dance, the majority of the audience will be Indians, and if you [stage] a Malay traditional dance, the majority will be Malays.
“I want to see more Malays watching Indian classical dances; and more Indians watching Malay classical dances, etc.
“I would like a more mixed racial crowd coming to watch this zapin show.”
Al-Jabar points out that the dancers for the show are made up of different races.
“The dance students in Aswara are taught all kinds of dance forms such as Indian classical dance, Chinese classical dance, Malay classical dance and contemporary dance,” adds Mohd Yunus.
“We want our students to have a variety of dance experiences. Some dance forms will improve your posture, and other dance forms will improve your movements.
“The more dance forms you learn, the more knowledgeable you become.”
When asked if there is future for people who want to learn dancing and make it their career, Mohd Yunus says: “A lot of parents ask me that question. In the commercial dance scene, you have a good chance of being a backup dancer for musical theatre and television shows.
“However, if you want to perform an artistic dance show, then you have to get financial backing.”
He explains that Aswara has also started its own dance company to raise funds for students to stage artistic dance performances.
It looks like Aswara is always willing to push the boundaries for the betterment of the local dance scene.
will be staged at the Experimental Theatre, Aswara, this Friday and Saturday. For more, visit the Aswara website.
(left) Leading the way … (from far left) Al-Jabar, Mohd Yunus and Syed Haziq. (top) Some of the zapin dance styles from Main Zapin 2016: Akar Budaya Zaman.