Saturday, 7 April 2012

Tutu Much

Image: Singapore Dance Theatre
The much anticipated tour of the Singapore Ballet troupe to Malaysia has been curtailed due to a late imposition of a sanction and more conservative elements of the host country labeling the ballet costumes as obscene.

Now while it is true that traditional ballet costume brings a new interpretation to the "the battle of the bulge", it should not be forgotten that this discipline uses the body as a form of creative expression.

Hence the tight costumes which show off the poise and grace of the movements to a greater degree. And I hasten to add, there is nothing inherently obscene about the human body.

History teaches us that the greatest Civilisations are those that celebrated diversity, welcomed innovation and encouraged cultural expression.  It also teaches us that those who follow a great dynasty by trying to impose restrictions, narrow the breadth of personal expression and punish those that step outside the norm are doomed to failure.

The earlier courts of India, China and Europe bare testament to the rise and fall of dynasties that were alternatively embracing and then restrictive in their rule. Singapore under the former PM Goh Chok Tong underwent a cultural renaissance of its own in the 1980's. Malaysia by comparison seems to be getting more conservative and restrictive despite the best efforts of its current Prime Minister, Najib Razak.

However the Tutu Tale doesn't end there. The Malaysian government in response to the universal derision that this ban engendered has been quick to say that "it did not receive a permit application for a Singapore ballet troupe to perform here despite organisers claiming the performances had been barred with no reason given".

Now I find this very hard to believe, even though the Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim has personally stated that he "“I love all forms of the arts and theatre. Ballet should be encouraged".

Someone, somewhere, clearly decided to withhold the license for the Singapore Ballet to perform. The troupe applied for the license months before it was due to tour and had performed across the Causeway for the last two years without causing a ruckus.

The end result of this spat is that 'Ballet Illuminations', for this is the name of the performance, will not be illuminating anyone in Malaysia over the weekend.
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