Danc­ing in place

> At Ur­ban­scapes, Bilqis Hi­j­jas leads a group of artists to ex­plore the spirit of Kuala Lumpur’s old­est land­marks

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

of Chi­na­town as it is, as a place now, which for most peo­ple, we as­so­ciate it with poverty and crime, and drug use and home­less­ness.

“And to be per­fectly fair, that’s true. There are a lot of home­less peo­ple in Chi­na­town … be­cause they have nowhere else to go.

“It’s a cheap area where they can find refuge, and they can find food, and pre­sum­ably they can also find drugs.”

The con­tem­po­rary dance ex­pert and Har­vard grad­u­ate ex­plained the “de­sire to smarten up the area” is un­der­stand­able “from a city coun­cil point of view,” but ev­ery­day is­sues re­quire dig­ging deeper.

Bilqis said: “They (city coun­cil) don’t seem to be do­ing any­thing to re­ally ad­dress the root causes of why peo­ple who we con­sider to be un­de­sir­ables take shel­ter in places like these.”

She added: “You can’t just sweep them un­der the rug. You can’t just make a pave­ment pretty, and ex­pect that they’ll go away.”

This is the ex­pe­ri­ence that Danc­ing in Place 2018 at Ur­ban­scapes as­pires to bring au­di­ences, one that is “in­ter­est­ing”, and “not about peo­ple hav­ing a ‘yay’ fun time,” in­sists Bilqis.

Each dancer will come up with an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the site in this artist­driven prac­tice, where the space is utilised after feed­ing off in­for­ma­tion and his­toric de­tails of Kuala Lumpur.

She said: “So the artists who are work­ing in the space also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to not just make ev­ery­thing look beau­ti­ful and like, hunky dory, ‘let’s have a beau­ti­ful week­end out’, and like, ‘watch pretty bal­let girls un­der trees’. “It’s not about that. “It’s about help­ing the au­di­ence find a point of ac­cess to look­ing at the com­mu­nity, to look­ing at the space, to see­ing the peo­ple who are there – the home­less peo­ple, and the drug ad­dicts.

“To re­al­is­ing that they are part of this fab­ric, this ur­ban fab­ric, and also delv­ing back into the his­tory of Kuala Lumpur.”

The artists who show­cased their work in the first week of Danc­ing in Place in­clude Lim Pei Ern; Rathi­malar Govin­dara­joo & Kishore Ku­mar; Khairi Mok­thar & Ng Xiny­ing; Naim Syahrazad, Im­ran Syafiq, Kim­berly Yap, Fal­iza Saad, Mohd Zulka­r­nain, and Sue Ki from ASK Dance Com­pany.

Mean­while, to­mor­row and Sun­day, Alla Azura Abal Abas, Bal­let­base, Lee Ren Xin, and ASWARA Fac­ulty of Dance will be show­cas­ing their work.

Next week­end on Nov 17 and 18, vis­i­tors can wit­ness works by Rithaudin Ab­dul Kadir; Joanna Tan, Al-Jabar Laura, and Lau Beh Chin.

Nat­u­rally, Bilqis ac­knowl­edges the re­spon­si­bil­ity of know­ing the spa­ces we oc­cupy – both past and present – to cre­ate art­work that res­onates with au­di­ences. As she puts it: “We have to use the re­al­ity of life as it is now, and [have] an aware­ness of the his­tory that’s been in this place to feed into the art­work that we make, and some­how give the au­di­ence ac­cess to both of those per­spec­tives.”

– Bilqis Hi­j­jas

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