Glimpse of Tari Inai

Posted: May 2, 2009 in All and Sundry, Art Attacks, dance
Tags: , ,


aswara dancers

aswara dancers

The first session of the last day of Dance Xchange: International Dance Festival and Workshop here in Dumaguete proved to be the most memorable.Professor Joseph Gonzales, choreographer and Dean of the Department of Dance at the National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy of Malaysia, along with his best student dancers taught us a few movements from the repertoire of Tari Inai, a traditional Malaysian dance  that originated in East Malaysia. It was the first time that I saw a dance like this one. When it was performed during the first showcase night, it really caught my curiousity and I was secretly wishing that the Malaysians would teach us a few steps in the workshop. 

So on the day of the session, my sister Rose and I woke up really early, excited to learn from our friends from Kuala Lumpur. When Prof. Gonzales told the crowd that we will be learning a few basic dance phrases from Tari Inai, I smiled, not even half-expecting that it would be such a difficult dance to learn. What really caught my curiousity about this dance are two things:

1. Prof. Gonzales mentioned that the dance was almost eradicated because the last living guru bore sons and daughters who didn’t want to learn to dance it and become gurus. So the transfer of knowledge was almost cut. Not until the Aswara Academy sent one dance student to research on the dance, learn it, and eventually teach it in the academy. That was how they were able to somehow preserve this beautiful art form.

2. My first reaction to the dance when I saw it performed in the concert was that it is very meditative. I’ve always gravitated towards slow meditative movements, reason why I love Tai Ji, so Tari Inai also intrigued me. In addition, the “mudras” were kind of similar to Pangalay and Orissi, which really made me more interested.

Well, like all kinds of dances, the Tari Inai proved to be ultimately very difficult. One has to really train to acquire cardiovascular strength, and most of all, muscular strength and flexibility. It proved to be very demanding on one’s knees, legs, waist, arms and wrists. It reminded me so much of Orissi. There was one movement phrase that involved in some sort of plie position with one leg straight to the side, and one has to move in a circle in the same position eight times. 

When we were asked to try the bridge position, I decided to sit down because I knew I had to take care of my spine.

One has to be very supple and limber to be able to dance this dance. But despite the pain and diffculties, Rose and I both enjoyed the session. She told me that it was her favorite session as the movement of the dance was closer to what she dances in the dance ensemble she belongs to. We both wonder how it would be very interesting to watch the dance being performed in the exact indigenous community where it originated. It must be very fun to watch.

This experience gives me another reason to return to Malaysia. If I’ll get that rare chance again, I’d definitely visit the academy, and ask around how to observe this dance in the community. If there’s anything I definitely learned from Dance Xchange it is that our Southeast Asian neighbors are so rich in culture and the arts. Again, my dream of being able to tour this region is stengthened more than ever. 🙂

(more pictures here)

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