Monday, May 31, 2010

Martha Stewart Captivated By Malaysia

Martha Stewart, well-known American lifestyle guru, author, publisher and host of the popular TV talk show "The Martha Stewart Show" recently visited Malaysia at the invitation of the Ministry of Tourism. Accompanying her on her first trip to Malaysia were her niece Sophie Herbert and good friend Memrie Lewis. While in Malaysia, Stewart tweeted about her experiences to her two million fans via Twitter. Stewart took the opportunity to try the local cuisine, visited many places of interest and watched how local handicrafts like pewter and songket were made. She had tea with Her Royal Highness, Queen Tuanku Nur Zahirah and brunch with Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of the Prime Minister.

In Kuala Lumpur, Stewart toured the Petronas Twin Towers, Islamic Arts Museum and Kuala Lumpur Bird Park where she had fun playing with the birds. She took a helicopter ride north of the city and was amazed by the sight of miles and miles of padi fields. Stewart also witnessed the "Colours of 1Malaysia" celebrations held at Dataran Merdeka on May 22. "Colours of 1Malaysia" is a collection of street performances which was first launched in 1999 by the Ministry of Tourism to highlight Malaysia's cultural heritage through music, song and dances. The finale of the evening was the Tarian Cuti Cuti Malaysia, a dance specially choreographed by the Ministry which was performed by the 5000 odd dancers.

Stewart had a walkabout in Melaka which she mentioned had a colourful history since the fifteenth century. She also visited the resort island of Pangkor Laut, Perak where she waxed lyrical about the beautiful beach at Emerald Bay. Sabah which lies on the island of Borneo was also on her itinerary. Stewart described Sabah as "the home of orang utans, tarsiers, slow lorises, elephants, wild boars, proboscis monkeys, 622 species of birds and more". Among the places she went to were the Danum Valley Conservation Area, Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary and Pulau Gaya where she watched a giant clam rehabilitation project. It's a pity she did not make a trip to Sipadan which is rated as one of the top five diving spots in the world.

I am surprised that Stewart did not visit the Agnes Keith House in Sandakan. Agnes Keith (1901-1982), was an American adventurer and author who was noted for her autobiographical accounts of North Borneo (now Sabah) before, during and after the Second World War. The three books about North Borneo written by Keith: Land Below the Wind, Three Came Home and White Man Returns, gives a vivid depiction of life in the region during those turbulent times. Agnes and her husband Harry left North Borneo in 1952. The house she and her husband lived in has been restored and turned into a museum. It contains displays about them as well as life in Sandakan during the first half of the twentieth century.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Proceedings Of The 28th AGM Of The Kuala Lumpur Dancers' Association

The 28th annual general meeting of the Kuala Lumpur Dancers' Association (KLDA) held on May 16 at its premises in Wisma OCM, Kuala Lumpur was attended by some 70 of its members. The chairman C C Lai, in his address spoke of the achievements of the KLDA during the past year and plans for the future. Lai elaborated on the KLDA Rising Star Championship 2010 held on April 13. In spite of the challenges and difficulties in organizing the competition, the KLDA managed to overcome the problems and put up a great show. A nett profit of RM30,000 was realized from this event. Lai thanked the organizing committee and all those who had helped make this championship a success.

The chairman also paid tribute to the dance teachers at the KLDA, namely Eric Tan See Meng, Dean Craig Kim and Barry Winters for their dedication and hard work in coaching their students and turning them into champions. Two Latin American dance couples under the tutelage of Dean Craig Kim were mentioned and commended for their outstanding achievements. They were the pair of Alfred Choo & Cecilia Yong (pic) who are currently ranked number 1 in the National Ranking Grade A Latin category and rising stars Billy Yong & Carmen Choo who won the Amateur Open Latin event at the ADC Amateur League Open Dance Championship held recently in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Various social events were organized last year to promote the KLDA and help attract new members to its fold. These events included the KLDA Gala Ball 2009 on August 8, an open house on December 27, the monthly pot lucks, and performances by members and guests. The KLDA is embarking on a campaign to attract more social dancers especially the youngsters to join as members. Presently the KLDA has a scholarship fund which is used to subsidize the dance lesson fees of talented dancers. As an added incentive, it is considering giving cash awards to members who emerge champions in the Amateur Ballroom and Latin events in selected competitions in Malaysia.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Serena Ballet School Conducts National Dance Classes

The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), UK is formed into twelve faculties which cover many forms of theatrical, recreational and social dance. National Dance is one of the dance styles which comes under the Imperial Dance and Theatre Faculty. The other dance styles under this faculty are Classical Ballet, Classical Greek Dance, Modern Theatre, Tap Dance and South Asian Dance. The aim of the National Dance Faculty is to bring the joy of European Folk Dance to all age levels. Folk dance develops a sense of community and awareness of others. The dancers have the opportunity to study traditional dances, costumes, music and customs (information sourced from ISTD website

Recently, an ISTD National Dance examination was held at Serena Ballet School in Klang, Selangor. Students taking the medal tests were not only required to perform the folk dances but also had to know something about the countries of origin of the dances. Models of the Eiffel Tower of France, Big Ben of England, the Parthenon of Greece, all made by the students were put on display. The students also prepared an Italian lunch made up of spaghetti bolognese, tiramisu, rosemary crackers, panettone (a type of bread) and expresso. The examiner, Barbara Simons of UK praised the students for their high standard of dancing and their efforts in preparing the projects.

The principal of Serena Ballet School is Serena Tan Suet Leng, a Licentiate in the National Branch of the ISTD. Serena was awarded the Helen Wingrave Scholarship by the ISTD in 1993 to enable her to pursue her love and passion for dance. Besides teaching ballet, Serena is the only dance teacher in Malaysia who trains and prepares students for the ISTD National Dance medal tests and examinations (from beginners to advanced levels and teacher qualifications). To know more about Serena Ballet School which is located at 94-D, Persiaran Raja Muda, Musa, 41100 Klang, Selangor, kindly contact Serena Tan at 012-2898127, email

Monday, May 10, 2010

All About Aswara

The National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (formerly known as the National Arts Academy) or Akademi Seni, Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) was set up in 1994 with the objective of producing creative performers, nurturing artistic talent and developing leaders in the arts. Aswara which comes under the auspices of the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage is the only institution of higher learning offering formal training in the performing arts, which is fully supported by the government. It provides teaching, learning, research and consultancy services in the fields of arts, culture and heritage.

Aswara offers three-year degree or diploma programmes in theatre, dance, fine arts, film & video, music and writing at its campus in Jalan Tun Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. The dance faculty has been credited with producing some of the country's well known contemporary dancers and choreographers. Joseph Gonzales, one of Malaysia's leading dance educationists and choreographers is the dean of the dance faculty. Gonzales studied dance and theatre at the London Studio Centre and Bush Davies School in England. He played the part of Simon of Legree in the West End musical "The King And I" and was the first Malaysian to perform in West End.

Events such as dance performances, dialogues and workshops in contemporary, traditional, hip hop and jazz are organized regularly by teachers and students of the dance faculty. A free dance performance and workshop by the students was held recently on April 29 to commemorate World Dance Day (also known as International Dance Day). To cater to the growing number of students in Aswara, a new academic building (artist's impression shown above) is currently being built near the present campus. The next intake for new students is in July 2010. To know more about Aswara, check out their website at

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Monday, May 3, 2010

World Dance Day Celebrations

Every year on the 29th of April, World Dance Day, also known as International Dance Day is celebrated all over the world by the international community of dancers. Initiated in 1982 and co-ordinated by the International Dance Council (CID), World Dance Day is not linked to any particular form of dance. The date was chosen to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), a French ballet master considered to be the creator of modern ballet. On this day, special events are held to celebrate the occasion. They include special performances, open-door classes, lectures, workshops, exhibitions, etc. The official purpose of these events is to attract the attention of the wider public to the art of dance.

The International Dance Council (Conseil International de la Danse - CID) is the official umbrella organization for all forms of dance in all countries of the world. It is a non-government, non-profit organization founded in 1973 within the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where it is based. CID treats all forms of dance on an equal basis. It does not promote a particular view of dance, recognizing its universal character as an art form, as a means of education and as a research subject. Its purpose is to act as a worldwide forum bringing together international, national and local organizations as well as select individuals active in dance. Membership includes more than 400 institutions and over 3000 individuals in 150 countries.

In Malaysia, World Dance Day 2010 was celebrated at various locations around the country. In Kuala Lumpur, the National Academy of Arts, Culture & Heritage or Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) held an open-day event at its campus in Jalan Tun Ismail. The students of Aswara performed traditional Malay, Chinese, Indian, jazz and hip hop dances and also conducted free workshops. At the Black Box (theatre) @ MAP in Solaris Dutamas, the audience were treated to a performance by some of the country's top contemporary dancers. Among the outstanding performers was January Low (pic), an Indian classical dancer and protege of renowned Odissi and Bharata Natyam dancer, Ramli Ibrahim.