Tertiary Dance Education in Malaysia
The government of Malaysia approved the establishment of the Akademi Seni Kebangsaan, or the National Arts Academy in 1990, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism. This was to be the nation’s first institution of higher learning, providing full-time training focused solely on the arts and one that would reflect Malaysia’s cultural heritage and identity. Although several universities in Malaysia now offer undergraduate and graduate arts degrees in theatre and music, few if any, place an emphasis on Malaysian traditional performing arts. At present, there are no first degrees offered in dance.
1999 saw the appointment of Joseph Gonzales, one of the institution’s pioneer lecturers, as Head of Dance, whose background was primarily in performance and choreography as opposed to academia. Through discussion with Malaysian luminaries such as Ramli Ibrahim, Dr. Zamin Haroon Chandrabanu, Marion D’Cruz, Choo Tee Kuang, Suhaimi Magi, Mew Chang Tsing and Loke Soh Kim, the general consensus was that the training offered too broad an approach to dance training and it lacked focus and direction. The system then underwent a major paradigm shift with a greater emphasis on three major areas, namely, traditional dance training, Western dance training and choreography, retaining and reinforcing its multiculturality. The intention of the dance department of the Akademi Seni Kebangsaan is now to train the body to be responsive to the various styles of dance in Malaysia, but with a world and global perspective. To make the academy more competitive, the diploma is now offered in three years instead of four. This more focused and comprehensive programme was tailored to produce good and skilled dancers. The ability to analyse, communicate ideas verbally and interpret them using the language of dance remains an integral component of the training. With the realization that not all students will be proficient in all areas of dance, the academy now offers its courses in a modular format, as is practised in numerous universities and institutions of higher learning. This provides the students with an opportunity to choose, to specialize and to excel in one or more areas of dance, depending on their aptitude, talent, desire and determination.
KeywordsDance Teacher Major Paradigm Shift Dance Programme Dance Form Dance Training
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