Malaysia

Rais says loves ballet, welcomes Singapore group

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — The government insisted today 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.

Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim (picture) told reporters this morning that Puspal, or the Central Agency for the Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artists, had not received an application for the set of shows originally slated for this weekend.

“I love all forms of the arts and theatre. Ballet should be encouraged,” he said when asked if he enjoyed ballet himself.

He also denied that “indecent costumes” were a problem as ballet dancers needed to wear tights to perform properly and urged the organisers to proceed with bringing in the performance.

The Singapore Dance Theatre was forced to cancel its plans after failing to get approval from the Malaysian authorities.

The group’s artistic director, Janek Schergen, said the news was a shock as licences for its ballets in Malaysia in the past two years have been given without a hitch, adding that “a large part of the tickets were sold out” for the performance which was to have taken place at KLPac.

KLPac, the performing arts centre here run by infrastructure conglomerate YTL, has claimed it applied for the licence “months ago” on the troupe’s behalf but was told that permission had not been granted, with no reasons given.

The Malaysian Insider reported yesterday that the Singapore Dance Theatre had been denied a permit to perform here this weekend owing to their “indecent” costumes.

MyDance Alliance president Bilqis Hijjas said the decision by Puspal against the Singapore Dance Theatre was “deplorable” and would hurt Malaysia’s reputation as a reliable host for cultural shows.

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.

But Schergen has dismissed the discussions as speculation, noting that “The Nutcracker,” one of the shows it was to have performed, was “one of the most respected, classic and family-friendly dances there are”.

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