“I HAVE been in the local dance scene more than 30 years,” says Batu Dance Theatre artistic director Vincent Tan Lian Ho, “and there are more and more young promising dancers receiving professional training and studies in dance, here and overseas as well.
“Those who have graduated have returned to Malaysia, formed their own group... These dancers are creative. The local dance scene is getting 'younger' with a lot of fresh ideas.
"To me, this is something really good. Back in my time, there was a lack of opportunity for professional dance training in Malaysia.
“Initially, I was studying for my Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Taiwan, and that's when I got to learn from eminent dance mentors Lin Hwai Min and Ming-Hsen Ku. I also performed with several professional dance companies in Taiwan.
"Back in Malaysia, very often I was teaching dance in the afternoon in Kuala Lumpur. I also attended a professional ballet class in Singapore. The long travelling time and the inconvenient ground transportation were difficult. Patience and determination are really important to continue our dance journey.
On young talents, Tan adds: "While creative and fresh ideas are good, choreographers nowadays should also consider the audience. They need to ‘bring’ the audience with them as they move forward. Both need to grow together. Only then can the performing arts scene in Malaysia can get better and better.
"This is also because performing arts education in Malaysia is not a very strong part of the school curriculum."
Tan, who is BDT's artistic director, has built a reputation for skilfully interpreting Chinese culture and traditions into vibrant and entertaining performances like the Rouge series and Mouse Bride.
He is using the new ideas from the youth for an innovative performance called FLY: Dancing in the arms of Peninsular Malaysia come Feb 14 to mark the BDT's 20th anniversary.
"Through both traditional and contemporary dance, as well as 20 years of classic repertoire, a brand new dance production is thus created to inspire and to pass on.
"I've included interdisciplinary forms of performances in the production, each with their unique features. There will be live percussion accompaniment and violin performance, and a video projection of Peninsular Malaysia's landscape.
"In the two-hour performance, I will bring out the three elements of the sky, the earth and different dance genres. The three main segments — The Horizon, The Forest and The Homeland — will have three to four dance pieces.
"Malaysians will see a lot of familiar elements in this dance performance. I would describe it as "rojak" — it may have many different ingredients but you still able to taste each individual one even with a very strong sauce!
"FLY combines stylish choreography with traditional and contemporary dance vocabularies. It incorporates scenic views of Peninsular Malaysia — from the sea to the mountain, from the birds and the chirping of the insects — to express my love for our home."
Over the decades, BDT has trained over 150 dancers, and many have become notable dancers and teachers.
For this performance, the alumni of Batu Dance Theatre and Sunshine Project young dancers will make their appearance on stage or help out with the overall production matters. They include one of the founding dancers of BDT, Wong Jyh Shyong, who is now a dance lecturer.
"There are 32 dancers for this production including me. We are based in Klang but there are some dancers from Batu Pahat and Muar and some from overseas, namely Ho Chi Minh City and Dubai.
"It's definitely very difficult to get them together, so that's one of the biggest challenges for this production," said Tan.
Taking logistics in his stride, Tan says FLY will be “a graceful expression of masculinity and gentleness, tranquillity and movement, smoothness and obstacles, hopes and disappointments in life”.
“It will be a total reflection of the efforts, hardship and hopes of the people living in this land,” he added.
He hoped the audience will enjoy the performance “happily in their own way so they will return to the theatre again".
FLY: Dancing In The Arms Of Peninsular Malaysia
When: Feb 14-16, 8.30pm; 3pm matinees on the weekend
Where: The Platform, Menara KEN TTDI, KL
Tickets: RM68/88/108 (exclusive of RM4 handling fee)
Visit www.proticket.com.my or call 03-7880 7999.