Although live events have been permitted since July, the performing arts sector, one that was hit the hardest during the initial stages of the pandemic, is still struggling to recover. Even though there's nothing quite like experiencing a live show in person (screens just make do for now), theatregoers and culture enthusiasts are still not rushing back into the halls yet.
To expedite the art scene's recovery, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has partnered with Masakini Theatre, Sutra Foundation and Surprise Ventures to launch Malaysia’s first virtual arts festival, Gerak Angin. The online festival, which begins on Malaysia Day until October 2, will feature more than 200 performers from 17 production companies across music, dance and theatre on their YouTube page.
Over 800 working hours were spent in producing these spectacular performances. Here are eight shows to get you started.
Beringin Sakti 2.0 (Sept 16, 3pm)
Geng Wak Long, Malaysia’s renowned blue-blood family of traditional Malay musicians specialises in a wide range of traditional Kelantanese art genres, such as wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), dikir barat (group singing), silat (martial arts) and mak yong (dance-drama). Its founder and director, Mohd Kamrulbahri bin Hussin has composed a Kelantanese music, theatre and dance arrangement fused with traditional and contemporary elements. It will be performed by Pak Nasir Yusoff, a distinguished master of wayang kulit, mak yong, main peteri and dikir barat, together with prima donna Fatimah Abdullah and instrumentalist Hamzah Yusoff.
Storytelling Sang Kancil: How Beruang Lost His Tail (Sept 18, 3pm)
KL Shakespeare Players takes pride in their focus on the works of English playwright Shakespeare. They believe Shakespeare’s scripts were originally written not to be studied, but to be performed for the general masses. Each year, they draw a diverse audience to watch Shakespeare performed live, notably their travelling production Macbeth and the poignant Old Lear, a reimagined version of King Lear in collaboration with Butoh dance group Nyoba Kan. Stepping out of their usual scripts, the theatre company will be adapting a story closer to home this time. Watch the reimagined folktale of Sang Kancil at the premiere of How Beruang Lost His Tail, directed by Lim Kien Lee and especially filmed for the virtual festival.
Ju4Ji2 (Sept 22, 3pm)
Award-winning Malaysian drum troupe Hands Percussions has captured the hearts of many with its thundering performances since 1997. Having made a name for itself for its Chinese-style drumming, the group has spent the last few years innovating its repertoire by venturing into contemporary percussion music and exploring different cultures. For its Gerak Angin show, Hands Percussions presents Ju4Ji2, a festive piece composed by principal percussionist and assistant artistic director Jimmy Ch’ng. The choreography starts with a solo drummer taking centre stage. He is slowly joined by supporting drummers, who feed off different rhythms and movements from each other.
Sangraha – A Tapestry of Bharatanatyam (Sept 24, 3pm)
When it comes to Indian dance, Suvarna Fine Arts is recognised for their vibrant renditions, striking choreography and innovative theatrical presentations. Through melody, lyrics, movement and mime, Sangraha brings forth architectonic moves through complex rhythms and expressive emotions, at the same time weaving in classic South Indian elements. The creative group has always stuck to their roots and now continues to carve a distinctive trajectory in Malaysian dance.
Aku Cinta Jarak 1 Meter (Sept 25, 3pm)
Arts, Culture and Experimental (ACX) Productions is an arts organisation that seeks to understand and practise a variety of existing theories and methodologies in art while implementing new concepts along the way. Physical and puppet theatre is usually the norm so their dance piece for Gerak Angin is a little out of the ordinary. Aku Cinta Jarak 1 Meter is a comical take on the lockdown situation in Malaysia. It explores the ‘good’ things that came out of Covid-19 (yes to personal space) and how the virus changed the world.
Synesthesia (Sept 28, 3pm)
Theatrethreesixty presents a production that explores the cognitive connection between our senses as a living organism, the destruction of all things natural and the saturation of garbage in society. Directed by Nicole-Ann Thomas, the experimental play stars Ian Able Nathaniel, Putrina Mohamed Rafie and Brian Cheong with original music by Fabien Thomas. The collective is dedicated to tell important stories — in this case, a tale on corruption and capitalism — and strive to give writers and actors a safe space to experiment and grow.
Kipas Gemalai (Sept 29, 3pm)
Performing group DiDance has spent many years focusing on preserving traditional and classical Malay court dances as well as music, and has received international acclaim for it. Their excellent and innovative dances set the standard for graceful and fluid movements, which can be seen in this spellbinding show. Choreographed by Zaridah Abdul Mallik and Dida Mallik, Kipas Gemalai is inspired by Joget Gamelan, a beautiful and elegant court dance grander than most of its kind. Coupled with the tintinnabulation of the gamelan and enchanting sounds, the presentation is set to mesmerise the audience.
Kanid Studio, founded by sape musician Alena Murang, is a creative outfit that focuses on integrated art and community projects rooted in preserving cultural traditions, particularly the Dayaks’. They often work with a network of musicians, artists, linguists, photographers, dancers and other creatives who share a desire to keep their heritages alive. This time, they are collaborating with Kelabit dance troupe Mupun Tauh to present a show that pays homage to the Kelabit Highlands in Northern Sarawak. Ra’ong, the hat that is used for shielding sun, is likened to the dome of the great big sky in this performance.
Sept 30, 3pm.
See here for the full list of shows.