Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Today is the birthday of a friend, Azanin. For those who might not know her please allow me a word or two. Azanin is Malaysia's leading classical dancer and choreographer, and an innovative pioneer of new forms of dance drama that build on centuries-old traditions. As her superb website puts it:"Rhythm, music, song, dance, legends and history are her life-blood". Actually, the designation "Malaysian" doesn't really do her justice. Last weekend I had the very great pleasure of shooting the breeze with her for a few hours and in the process learned a great deal about the cultural fluidity of Southeast Asia and beyond. This is how Azanin puts it:
My world is dance which is carried by the Trade Winds and rides the crests of the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The islands of Southeast Asia are the world of the Malay-Polynesian peoples. I am one of them and Dance is the centre of my universe.
The seas of our region brought destruction and death recently but it is good to be reminded that they have also brought creation and vitality, and will do so again.

Over the last 25 years Azanin has danced all over the world. She has been a regular at the various incarnations of WOMAD, in Gran Canarias, in Reading and in Johannesburg. But if you want to catch her performances now you'll have to come to Malaysia. Most of our conversation focused on the realisation of her dream to open a new cultural centre that will be a focal point for the performing arts. And that dream is slowly becoming true as the foundations for beautiful wooden structures are laid in the thick forests of Selangor. In a few months time the centre will be ready. And then Azanin will dance again. Happy birthday, friend.


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