Datuk Ramli Ibrahim’s name is so in­trin­si­cally linked to Malaysian Arts and Cul­ture that he needs no in­tro­duc­tion. The dance doyen steals the spot­light this month in a fash­ion spread where East­ern move­ment meets Western style.

The Peak (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Datuk Ramli Ibrahim’s name is so in­trin­si­cally linked to Malaysian Art and Cul­ture that he needs to in­tro­duc­tion. The dance doyen steals the spot­light this month in a fash­ion spread where East­ern move­ment meets Western style.

WWith a wink, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim, 64, says, “I’m look­ing to cre­ate a scan­dal. My rep­u­ta­tion has been too pure re­cently”. It’s not so much con­tro­versy as an ex­act­ing stan­dard that has had the re­cent re­cip­i­ent of In­dia’s Padma Shri award, en­chant­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences alike. Datuk Ramli has been a doyen of dance, ren­o­vat­ing and push­ing for­ward the con­ver­sa­tion re­volv­ing around Malaysia’s arts and cul­tural scene, with an au­gust ca­reer span­ning ap­prox­i­mately 40 years.

While his is a truly ven­er­ated name within the artis­tic com­mu­nity—and de­spite the in­cred­i­ble amount of ac­co­lades and ti­tles un­der his belt— Datuk Ramli is not one to seek out these lau­rels.

“I am very or­ganic and very nat­u­ral in the way I take any ti­tle, be it my Datuk­ship or the Sangeet Natak Award, which is, for me, mean­ing­ful be­cause it is given by artistes.”

When asked how the cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment has grown or changed from his de­but to the present day, he says, “If you look at dance, there have been some im­prove­ments but it is not good enough to say that dance is well. We are talk­ing about dance as part of a rel­e­vant na­tion build­ing ef­fort, and I find this not suf­fi­ciently ex­ploited. So, you find that dance is not in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, there is a cer­tain po­lar­i­sa­tion of dance. So, there are pock­ets of ex­cel­lence and I think Sutra is one of the groups that tries to lift dance out of the im­passe, so to speak, but we are not every­body, you know. “

We can see how Datuk Ramli, in tan­dem with his dance school Sutra Foun­da­tion, has up­held dance stan­dards par ex­cel­lence from the fo­cused and tena­cious man­ner in which he breezed through the photo shoot cum in­ter­view.

From be­guil­ing us with tales of his in­ter­na­tional per­for­mances and in­formed in­fer­ences on cur­rent events, to strik­ing ma­jes­ti­cally re­splen­dent poses be­fore the cam­era, Datuk Ramli worked swiftly through the line of haute cou­ture clothes. With the quan­tity of jaw­drop­ping shots that were taken, we had half a mind to com­pose a fash­ion photo book sim­i­lar to the mus­ings of Richard Ave­don with his revo­lu­tion­ary photo book Ave­don Fash­ion 19442000. Take af­ter ex­haust­ing photo take saw jumps and lifts with the kind of vigour and en­ergy ex­pected of dancers a third his age!

Datuk Ramli also spoke can­didly, es­pe­cially with com­ing up with so­lu­tions for the afore­men­tioned state that the lo­cal dance and arts com­mu­nity is in. “I think we need to have an arts coun­cil that is able to be to­tally gov­erned by peo­ple who are not po­lit­i­cal, who are ex­perts in their fields. Not just in dance but in dif­fer­ent sec­tions, so it’s not just lumped to­gether as arts and cul­ture,” he says.

“I think if you have an arts coun­cil cater­ing for per­form­ing arts, lit­er­a­ture, crafts, film and all that and you have ex­perts, I think you need to have at least eight or nine on the board, en­com­pass­ing ar­eas which ex­perts can truly ad­vice at an arm­slength sit­u­a­tion from the gov­ern­ment, is truly what is right. And I think we have to take reli­gion and race out of arts and cul­ture.”

Malaysia’s own dance icon, thus, can only be de­scribed suc­cinctly with a quote from a fel­low icon, dancer and chore­og­ra­pher, Martha Gra­ham: “No artist is pleased. There is no sat­is­fac­tion what­ever at any time. There is only a queer, di­vine dis­sat­is­fac­tion; a blessed un­rest that keeps us march­ing and makes us more alive than the oth­ers.”


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