KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — A Singaporean dance troupe has been denied a permit to perform here this weekend owing to their “indecent” costumes, a Malaysian dance organisation said today.
MyDance Alliance president Bilqis Hijjas said the decision by Puspal against the Singapore Dance Theatre performing at KLPac was “deplorable” and would hurt Malaysia’s reputation as a reliable host for cultural shows.
Puspal, or the Central Agency for the Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artists, is under the purview of the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry headed by Datuk Seri Rais Yatim.
Bilqis said Puspal had approved dances featuring classical tutus before — even at government-run theatre Istana Budaya as late as this year — and asked why the agency was “so inconsistent” in applying its guidelines.
“KLPac, by comparison, is a private business on private ground, with paying audiences who were well aware of what they were coming to see, and not one of whom would have been distressed by the costumes,” she said.
She noted that the women’s costumes featured long skirts, except for dancers in The Nutcracker, who would have worn the same short classical tutus and tights that have been used since ballet dancers performed before the Russian tsars in the 1870s.
“Ballet dancers in Baghdad are allowed to wear ballet costumes on stage,” said Bilqis. “Are we to understand that the Malaysian public is less cosmopolitan, less morally resilient and less broad minded than the citizens of a Middle Eastern country that has been ripped to shreds by war and violence?”
Bilqis pointed out that the arts were also a business, and that Puspal’s decision would create “enormous doubt” among international investors, causing them to shun Malaysia as a venue for world-class performers.
This would lead to huge loss of revenue for the country, which contradicted the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry’s stated objective of “increasing national income through contributions from the creative and communication industries”, she added.
Bilqis said she hoped the show would be allowed to go on “with better leadership” from the ministry as it was an act that would raise its prestige as an open and consistent incubator of the arts.
In February, Puspal cancelled the permit issued to R&B singer Erykah Badu after English daily The Star ran an “offensive” image of the American artiste bearing temporary tattoos of the word “Allah” in Arabic script.
The agency could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.