The joy of movement
Article from the Sun daily by Bissme.S (posted on 4 Feb 2020)
DANCING allows Imran Syafiq to express himself. The 28-year-old lad pursued a bachelor’s degree in dance where, interestingly, he specialised in bharata natyam.
Currently holding the position of managing director at ASK Dance Company, Imran also hopes that more government funds are given to develop the Malaysian dance scene.
How did your journey as a dancer begin?
“My childhood dream was to be a scientist. My older sister belonged to a cultural club during her school days. One of the main activities of the cultural club was learning Malay traditional dances such as joget, inang and zapin. I followed my sister to her rehearsals. I was exposed to the world of dance. I loved what I saw.
“When I entered secondary school, I also joined the cultural club. Like my sister, I learned Malay traditional dances. Later I decided to pursue dance as my career.
“I pursued a diploma and a degree in dance in Aswara (Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan). Later I took up a bachelor’s degree in dance where I majored in bharata natyam.”
What attracted you to bharata natyam?
“(Laughing) Everyone always asks me this question. They are curious as to why, as a Malay, I am attracted to Indian classical dance.
“In Aswara, you are trained to be a versatile dancer. You are exposed to Malay, Indian, Chinese, Sabah and Sarawak dance forms. I was exposed to bharata natyam there.
“I find the dance to be interesting. I love the complexity of the dance. You have to act, you have to dance, you have to have the stamina to keep up with the routine. I found that I was expressing myself better through bharata natyam.”
Tell us more about your family. Did your parents object to your dance ambitions?
“My father is a lawyer who runs his own law firm, and my mother is a businesswoman. They have three children and I am the youngest. My sister became a lawyer just like my father, and my brother became a businessman just like my mother.
“There was some protest from my father when I wanted to purse dance. He felt I could not sustain myself through dance. He was just worried about my future.
“But I took up the challenge. I managed to show my father I could sustain myself through dance. Now, he is more understanding towards my dance career.”
You are the managing director for ASK Dance Company. Tell us about ASK.
“We have 10 full-time dancers who are also doing marketing for the company. We specialise in providing training, workshops, master classes, performances, choreography as well as undertaking collaborative projects in traditional and contemporary genres of dance.
“Since 2011, we have held workshops in rural and urban areas where we teach students how to perform Malay traditional dances. Two years ago, we started a project where we trained teachers in rural and urban areas on dance, and eventually the teachers will go and teach their students how to dance.”
What is the biggest challenge you face as a Malaysian dancer?
“Dancers in Malaysia are always underpaid. I dance because I have a passion for it. You can’t rely solely on dance for income. You have to diversify. I am also a part-time dance lecturer for Aswara teaching bharata natyam. I am also a dance tutor for a few dance studios. I have participated in several dance workshops in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Hawaii to teach Malay dance, and I get paid for it.”
What are the changes you’d like to see in the Malaysian dance scene?
“I would love to see more cross-cultural exchange in the Malaysian dance scene. I would love to see an Indian learning Malay dance, a Malay dancer learning Indian dance, etc. To a certain degree, Ramli Ibrahim has done that. I would also love to see more funds raised for the Malaysian dance scene.”
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