Dance, an integral part of Malaysian culture, is a favoured art form, aside from music. Being a multicultural country, Malaysian dances are just as colourful as its people where there are various traditional dances for each race, like Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, Kadazan, Iban and so on. Here, Top 10 of Malaysia takes a look at its list of the top new generation Malaysian cultural dancers who have excelled and are making waves in the traditional dance arena, locally as well as abroad.
Specialising in Indian Odissi, Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance, Rathimalar often partnered Ramli Ibrahim at Sutra Dance Theatre for over two decades and worked at Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company (SJDC) in London. Having toured Europe, she returned and produced first choreography work for StarStruck, leading to more and has received many accolades, like Marie Claire’s Women of Style & Substance 2011. The New York Times dubs her, “a dancer who casts a spell of the Odissi form by the fullness with which she performs it”. Collaborating with January Low for Rehab in 2014, she is currently a dance educator at Help International School and freelances, touring occasionally with SJDC.
Norbaizura Abdul Ghani
Norbaizura started dancing at 18 years of age, completing a diploma and Bachelor of Dance at Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (ASWARA). Having performed locally and internationally, she is the first Malay woman in Malaysia to perform her Arangetram in Bharatanatyam in 2011 and has performed for An Adoration of Gangga and Crossing Borders in Bharatanatyam in India, among others. Winning a BOH Camerion Arts Award for her work with others on Crossing Borders in Bharatanatyam, she also received the Excellent Service Award 2016 and Anugerah Khas Juri Selangor – Tokoh Seniman Muda in 2011. Norbaizura currently lectures at ASWARA.
Pursuing dance studies at ASWARA upon completing highest advanced certificate in classical ballet, Jessica has skills in a myriad of Asian cultural dance forms like Zapin and Ngajat and in Western dance forms. As the first Malaysian Chinese to play Pak Yong in dance-drama Mak Yong which is a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Jessica graduated and received a full scholarship to study dance at Texas Christian University. Currently based in New York City as a movement artist, she has worked with BAILA Society, Surati, Robin Becker Dance and interdisciplinary choreographer, Akim Funk Buddha. Her newest ventures are the Adage dance form and aerial silks.
Mohd Yunus Ismail
Graduating from a Diploma in Dance and Bachelor of Dance with Honours at ASWARA, Yunus majored in Bharatanatyam, completing his Arangetram in 2011. He won the Most Promising Artist at BOH Cameronion Arts Award in 2009, The Selangor Young Talent Award Grand Jury Prize (SEYTA 2011), Best Choreographer in a Mixed-bill for the 12th Boh Cameronian Arts Award in 2015 and participated in local TV show, So You Think You Can Dance?, and has performed in various musicals like An Adoration of…Gangga. Yunus’ dance exposure in multiple countries include working with London’s Shobana Jaya Singh Dance Company in 2013 and he is currently Dean of the Dance Faculty at ASWARA.
Starting her journey with classical ballet, followed by over two decades of Indian classical dance training in Sutra Dance Theatre, January has performed in events worldwide, returning with a refreshed passion for dancing a year after the birth of her twins. Performing for the International Odissi Festival in Orissa (2014), ASWARA’s Dance Festival – Tari (2014) and Shantanand Dance Festival (2015), she has also performed while 7 months pregnant for her sold-out successful Odissi production, bloom. Currently based in Jakarta, she aspires to continue dancing to keep the tradition of Malaysian Odissi alive, which is believed to be the bastion of some of the world’s best Odissi dancers.
Mohd Fauzi Amirudin
A dance graduate majoring in choreography skilled in traditional, contemporary and ballet dance forms, Fauzi’s experience includes local and international performances. Winning prizes at National Solo Ballet Competitions, scholarships to study in Japan, gold medals at the World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Los Angeles and BOH Cameronian Arts Award for Best Choreographer in a Mixed-bill for 2 by 2, he joined Asia Dance Company in Seoul for two years before staging his work in Pit-Stop and performing in Un Yamada’s One Piece and I am from 2020. His significant experience in choreolabs include WDA-AP 2016 Seoul and Fauzi assisted in the choreography for the musical, Nunsense.
Mohd Nur Faillul Adam
Currently lecturing at ASWARA where he is a dance graduate, Nur Faillul Adam has experience in breakdancing, traditional and contemporary dance forms. Previously a principal dancer in ASK Dance Company, he obtained a full scholarship to pursue his postgraduate studies at University of Limerick in 2013, where he was selected for the Step up Dance Project in Ireland. Performing in Langkau, a collaboration work supported by The Krishen Jit Astro Fund, he is also set to choreograph The Swordfish + Concubine late this year. More recently, he worked with Norzizi Zulkifli in Thorne of Thorns which combined elements of contemporary theatre and traditional Mak Yung theatre.
Geethika started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of three under the tutelage of her mother, Guru Sudha Thamothiran before taking Odissi lessons with Ramli Ibrahim at Sutra Dance Theatre. Gaining international experience and working with prominent figures in the field, she performs in major productions and international tours as a principal dancer of Sutra. She has performed with Ramli Ibrahim for the former Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak and in Carnegie Hall (New York City), The Esplanade (Singapore) and National Centre of Performing Arts (Mumbai). Geethika’s current responsibilities include mentoring the younger generation of Sutra dancers.
Mohammad Khairi Mokthar
Mohammad Khairi Mokthar completed his dance degree at ASWARA, where he formally qualified as an Indian classical dancer via debut Arangetram in Bharatanatyam. Trained in traditional, ethnic and contemporary dance forms, he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at Korea National University of Arts under a scholarship by the Korean government and previously worked at Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company in London and ASWARA Dance Company. Winning Best Choreographer in Malaysia’s 12th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards, Khairi is involved in various performances, competitions, choreographies and collaborations with artists in and out of Malaysia and is currently a full-time dancer at Inner Space Dance Company.
Elaine Ng Xinying
Graduating from ASWARA as Best Dance Graduate, Elaine Ng Xinying is proficient in contemporary, ballet and traditional dance forms. Receiving the title Nrityanjali for mastering debut Arangetram as an Indian classical dancer in Bharatanatyam, she completed a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Korea National University of Arts under scholarship by the Korean government. Currently a dancer at Inner Space Dance Company, she also performs internationally, conducts workshops and collaborates with choreographers worldwide. Having also performed internationally for various theatre productions, Xinying’s accomplishments include a nomination in Women of Excellence Malaysia Awards and winning Best Female Dancer in Malaysia Short+Sweet Dance Festival.