'I have a strong connection with Bengaluru dancers'

Malaysian dancer Dakut Ramli Ibrahim was in the city to perform at ‘Bhaava’, a three-day dance festival that happened over the weekend

Ramli Ibrahim and troupe presented ‘Oddissi On High’ at Ravindra Kalakshetra on May 17.

Dakut Ramli Ibrahim, an accomplished ballet, modern, and Indian classical dancer from Malaysia, has performed internationally for four decades now. He is the chairman of Sutra Foundation, a platform working towards retaining the creative spirit of Malaysia. Ramli was recently in the city for ‘Bhaava’, a three-day dance, music and theatre festival curated by Anandi Arts Foundation and Swaralaya. He presented ‘Odissi on High’, a choreography in collaboration with Bhubaneswar’s Rudrakshya Foundation, at the festival. 

In a chat with Rakshitha M N, he spoke about his dance academy, India-Malaysia cultural relationship and more.

Tell us a bit about ‘Odissi on High’.
Thematically, ‘Odissi on High’ is an exploration of ‘Pallavi’ (a fast pace dance performed in the honour of Lord Shiva) as an evolving genre and how it has creatively developed over the years. Two distinctive and iconic pallavis representing the two major pioneer gurus, those created by the late guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and guru Debaprasad Das, are featured as the ‘template’ compositions for the production. The shankarabaranam and kolabati pallavis of guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and guru Debaprasad Das are re-explored and re-envisioned in new group compositions with the original vocabulary intact. The exploration demonstrates the constantly evolving nature of dance.

About your collaboration with Rudrakshya Foundation.
I have known Guru Bichitrananda for many years and always wanted to present him in Malaysia. ‘Odissi on High’ was an opportunity that finally made it come true. The collaboration with Rudrakshya Foundation represents a major India-Malaysia cultural link. Our collaboration represents a continuing trend of globalisation spirit.

Is it different from the traditional Odissi?
The work keeps to the tradition in terms of the dance vocabulary and the music, but there is contemporaneity and modernity within the presentation, which lies in the group composition and also the lighting design and the dynamics of the production. These are the areas where Sutra’s contribution are focused on. The composition is just a group of dancers doing solos in the linear and frontal geometrical arrangement. Spatially, there is more spiral and sequential movements though keeping intact the Odissi-ness of the work, new angles and dynamics are explored.

Do you have a Bengaluru connect?
I have performed in Bengaluru many times. I first performed here about 20 years ago. I have a very strong connection with many dancers here but unfortunately, my own group has not been able to perform here for more than 8 years now. 

Tell us about your connection with India.
My connection with India has been for more than four decades, and Sutra has performed in more than 50 cities in India. I am still in awe with the incredible contribution that Indian culture, thoughts and aesthetics have made to the world. Much of Indian culture has become part of our own culture through the presence of significant Indian communities in Malaysia.
Not only Indian dance forms, Malaysians have now embraced yoga, ayurveda, Bollywood and Indian cuisine. We know the Ramayana and Mahabharata through their strong presence in our traditional performing arts. Sanskrit words and concepts have always formed an integral part of the spoken Malay language and aesthetics, ever since we can remember.

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