By Khaleeja Suhaimi
Modern dance is often referred to as a wide genre of theatrical dance. It began back in the 19th and early 20th Century in Germany and the United States. Discarding the rigid rules of classical ballet, both Martha Graham, who is known as the ‘Picasso of Dance’ and Angela Isadora Duncan, known as ‘Mother of Dance’ are the two American pioneers in modern dancing. They both had the same goal of restoring dance to a higher art form, rather than mere entertainment.
What began as a form of freedom in movement is now known worldwide. Today, modern dance such as Hip Hop, Zumba, Latin and even Indian contemporary dances are popular in Malaysia. Want to know where you can find these in Ipoh? Let’s find out!
Work of Art, Self-Expression or Form of Communication
Passionate about fitness since young, Penang-born Adeline Low is the first to bring Zumba Fitness to Ipoh. When she moved to Ipoh in 2011, she continued teaching Cardio Kickboxing and later heard about Zumba Fitness, a combination of dance and fitness. Interested, she began introducing it to a small group of students and much to her surprise, the love kept growing and has not stopped since.
Well-known and well certified, Adeline teaches Zumba at her studio called Groove Fitness. Zumba Fitness is a Latin-inspired cardio-dance workout which uses music and choreographed steps to form an atmosphere of a fitness party. It is inspired by various Latin dance styles and music such as Merengue, Salsa, Reggaeton, Cumbia, Flamenco, Cha-Cha, Tango and more.
Originating from the Dominican Republic, Merengue is known as the ‘Marching Dance’ and is the country’s official dance and music. It is usually a fast paced and energetic dance. Born in New York, Salsa takes much of its soul from cultures of Cuba and the Caribbean. It is flirty, fun and emphasises a lot on hip motion. Many Zumba songs blend elements of Reggaeton with Salsa music to allow a broader range of movements.
Cumbia was once a courtship dance among slaves but has now evolved due to new instruments introduced by European traders. The movements reflect its origin, with steps that resemble harvesting sugarcane. Reggaeton’s music is distinguished by heavy bass drum, similar to the sounds produced by a Reggae style drum. The unique beat is what really sets it apart from other Latin dances, thus making it most similar to American Hip Hop.
Flamenco, on the other hand, does not rely on music. Instead, the dancers use their body parts to produce sounds by clapping, snapping and tongue clicking. Zumba uses this concept and refines the essence of the attitude. Similar to Cumbia, Samba originates from the West African slave trade. It is famous for its sexy hip movements and festive style and mood.
“As an instructor, how we lead a class is very important. For Zumba, we use non-verbal cueing as our primary form of communication. Usually we motivate the students by showing them our energy and encouraging them to have fun. Also, remember to smile!” Adeline expressed, cheerfully.
Zumba, to Adeline, is the perfect workout to get rid of stress. The upbeat music and moves will enhance one’s mood as you lose yourself in the music. To begin, her advice is to have an open mind and follow as much as you can at your own pace. In terms of losing weight, it always boils down to what you eat. It also depends on how much effort you put into it. A session of Zumba Fitness usually burns about 500 calories or less.
“Another thing I love about Zumba is that I get to meet and interact with new people every time. We all end up as a big Zumba family without realising it. In Zumba, nobody is watching. All you need to do is let loose and have fun! Ever since I introduced Zumba to Ipoh, I believe there’s no other exercise as fun as this and nothing comes close. I’m glad that more Zumba studios are coming up and spreading the love everywhere,” she continued.
For anyone who is interested, Groove Fitness consists of four instructors, including Adeline herself. She opens every day and fees range from RM60 onwards.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/groove.fit.1 Number: +6012 288 7670 Address: Groove Fitness, 59 A Jalan Medan Ipoh 2, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh 2, 31400 Ipoh, Perak
Other Studios offering Zumba:1) Sculpt Fitness No. 4, Lebuh Ceylon, 30350 Ipoh, Perak 05 254 6232 2) Dynastic Fitness Centre 2A – 16A, Jalan Bercham Nova 1, Bercham Nova, 31400 Ipoh, Perak 05 536 6630 3) Zum Fitness 65A, Laluan Tasek Timur 3, Pusat Perdagangan Tasek Indra, 31400 Ipoh +6016 412 1026 4) Yencci Dance Studio 10B, Jalan Temenggong, Taman Rose, 31650 Ipoh, Perak +6017 383 0486
Nexus Dance Studio
Ranked as Malaysia’s Top 10 Dance Studios on TallyPress (an online portal that specialises in curating various topics in Malaysia and Singapore), Nexus Dance Studio was founded by 25-year-old Leon Vong Ju Vyn. Nexus focuses on Hip Hop, breaking (breakdancing), kids Hip Hop, girl style (feminine Hip Hop), popping and K-Pop.
It began operating in October 2012 with zero profit. At that time, Leon had to take on a different job for about two years to support his studio. Things eventually got better when he moved to the studio’s current location. His passion for dancing started in 2006, at the age of 14. He would head to Polo Ground just to train with his friends in the middle of the night.
“Once, when we were training, a very nice lady named Miss Chin from Dance Centre Ipoh came up to us. She asked if we had a studio and offered us to teach at hers. So we did. That’s when I thought I really wanted to open my own studio,” said Leon.
Hip Hop Dance is a street dance style founded in South Bronx, New York, back in the 70s. It was developed by individuals who did not have professional training but had a natural instinct for movement. While the culture gradually changed in the 80s, a new style of Hip Hop, called freestyle was introduced. As the dance evolved through time, films highlighting Hip Hop were produced to focus on the dance moves and combined beats.
Leon also attended classes at Motion Master and looked up to Eddie Chan, his instructor who had the vision of wanting to bring up the dancing scene in Ipoh. Inspired by both Miss Chin and Eddie, Leon was assured he wanted to do something about the dancing community here.
The term ‘nexus’ refers to a network of connections, which is what he strives to do with the studio; to bring dancers together. For him, ‘breaking’ is about the freedom to move and do anything while Hip Hop is all about grooving and free styling. The differences are evident through the different types of movements and music used for each dance.
“The biggest challenge in street dance will always be people’s mindset. They look down on street-style dancing. It used to be easier to teach back in my era. Now it’s all about social media and people only want to learn to dance for their 15 seconds of fame on Instagram or Facebook. It’s not about performing anymore,” he remarked.
To change this perspective, he suggests that more dancers should perform in schools for events. Exposing students to these dance styles will interest them and they might agree to giving it a shot. Even if they do not want to do it professionally, just keep going as a hobby.
“Too many people quit dancing for nonsensical reasons. Many people think that dancing is all about being competitive but really, it’s way more than just that. Yes, it will always be a financial struggle but it’s a visual art and my advice is, keep pushing past your limits,” he concluded.
Leon and his teammates have been in various dance competitions. They were champion for the Solo category of Feel the Beat and was awarded third place for the group category. His teammate, Christopher Chow was also on Astro Battleground 2016.
Currently, Nexus has three instructors including Leon himself. Classes are held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. However, students can request for a weekday class with a certain amount of students. Fees are RM70 per month.Facebook Page: https://web.facebook.com/NexusDanceStudio/?_rdc=1&_rdr Contact Number: +6016 553 9623 Address: 16A, Jalan Medan Ipoh 9, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh, Perak
Other Studios:1) D’Artiz Studio 20A, Off Jalan Ng Soon Teik, Taman Pertama, 31400 Ipoh +6017 461 8549 2) Rhythm Expression Dance Academy 54, Lebuh Medan Ipoh, Bandar Baru Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh +6016 200 3006
Indian Contemporary Dance
Back in the 1920s, Uday Shankar, known as the Father of Modern Dance in India decided to incorporate elements of classical and folk together with ballet to create a new dance form. It was called Hi-dance. While Indian contemporary dance is sometimes defined as a combination of refined and experimental fusions of classical, folk and Western, 22-year-old Lasheni Erakulan is a passionate exponent of this form and shares her thoughts on it.
Growing up with Tamil and Bollywood films in her DNA, Lasheni followed in her mother’s footsteps and began dancing from 11 years old. She specialises in Bollywood, classical, semiclassical and folk dances. For Lasheni, a folk dance called Dappan Koothu is the closest it can get to modern dancing in Ipoh.
Dappan Koothu is an informal dance with no structured and repeated steps. It is a fast paced and energetic freestyle, accompanied by facial expressions, especially the tongue which is used to depict emotions. The boys are said to have more energetic steps, while the girls have more delicate moves. It is famous in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
“I’ve never attended classes. I learned everything myself, through different participations in societies. Also, I choreograph my own steps for both boys and girls to teach. It gets challenging as some dancers can’t catch up and require a different approach,” she said.
According to Lasheni, the response for Indian modern dance in Ipoh is still very poor. Most of them use being shy or scared as an excuse while others say that dancing can be a burden. Parents should begin encouraging their children to give it a try in order to maintain the tradition itself. With this being said, the instructor needs to know the tricks to pull youngsters into dancing.
“I approach people by making these dances sound easy and letting them try. The secret is to indulge yourself in the music, the flow in your movements will come naturally. I lose myself in the rhythm and beat so when I dance, all my sorrows go away. People just don’t see the importance of these dances. If the current generation doesn’t maintain it, our culture will eventually die,” she continued.
Lasheni has joined all kinds of competitions and was even crowned champion in several, including the Akshaya Dance Competition 2015. It was held at Quest International University Perak, Ipoh. Lasheni does not have her own studio just yet but is open to teach anyone. She can be contacted at 014 304 6101.
Some people define modern dance as a work of art, some say it is an expression of abstract ideas, while others say it is a form of communication. Perhaps it is all of it combined or much more than that.