Chapter One, a compelling dance performance on Zoom
Review by Hamidah Abd Rahman

On Nov 14, I had the delight of watching a live Zoom performance called Chapter One by FiTA Dance Theatre, a performance art club run by students from the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), Shah Alam, Selangor.

The virtual Zoom show was held for three nights, on Nov 13, 14 and 15. The show ran for 45 minutes, and tickets were priced at RM10.

Originally, the dance performance was intended to be showcased in New York City in February 2021. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions that have impacted everyone globally, the production team adapted their show and staged it virtually, on Zoom.

The performance was choreographed by Fairul Zahid, a lecturer with the theatre department at UiTM, and advisor of FiTA Dance Theatre.

Zahid has numerous accolades and achievements as a dancer and choreographer. He was one of the recipients of the Sime Darby Foundation 'Star' scholarship award, which granted him the opportunity to study Master of Fine Arts in Dance at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University (NYU).

The Chapter One virtual dance performance was a way for Zahid to showcase Malaysia’s promising new talents, four young dancers: Fazly Izwan (19), Zamrey Mahmud (20), Hakim Noraji (20), Qayreil Mazalan (23).

According to FiTA Dance Theatre, the choreography titled PRO_GANDA is a physical exploration of the effects of propaganda and its utilisation as a tool to evoke an emotional response from its subject.

The title PRO_GANDA is a clever play on words, as “pro” is a word that is used to indicate a favourable response towards something, whilst “ganda” means “double” when translated into the Malay language.

The contemporary dance piece was inspired by the political turmoil that the country has been undergoing during the pandemic, as well as a reflection of current societal issues that affect the different class systems in the nation.

Other than being a commentary on Malaysia's current political state and everyday social dilemmas, the show also showcased an appreciation for the leaders of the nation, and for their contributions.

With elements from traditional, ballet and modern dance, the themes within the dance performance were meant to resonate with the audience, which they successfully did.

Just as how propaganda is used to incite emotions of a target audience, Chapter One’s artistry evoked an emotional response from its viewers, including myself.

At first, there were no expectations prior to the show, as virtual live performances have always been subjected to personal scepticism. However, as soon as the dance began, the dancers’ high energy and the cathartic movements quickly compelled the audience to remain glued to the performance.

It was clear that every movement in the piece was full of purpose and laced with meaning. The dancers never had a moment’s rest, and although they were full of energy, there was also a sense of delicateness as the quartet danced almost in unison, demonstrating its superior teamwork.

The choreography by Zahid was truly breath-taking, and the delivery by Izwan, Mahmud, Noraji and Mazalan constantly provided the audience thrills.

The performance space only included black-coloured mats on the floor, with black-coloured curtains and walls surrounding it, which was a huge contrast to the costumes. Each of the dancers wore different suits and ties in maroon, beige, blue and purple, which perhaps was intended to represent the different class systems within the country.

There were moments in the choreography during which the quartet moved in synchronicity, like a chain. However, one or two of the dancers (the blue and purple-suited ones) would suddenly divert and do a completely different routine, signifying their “break” from the chain.

Other than deviating from the others, the blue and purple-suited dancers would sometimes collapse on the floor, in the middle of the choreography, while the rest neglected them and continued with their own routine. Such portrayals could have been a reflection of our failure as a society to help the vulnerable.

Since the theme of the show pertained to the nation and politics, perhaps the cathartic choreography was meant to symbolise how the country’s political issues and policies trickle down and impact the different class hierarchies. The wealthier are the least affected, represented by the maroon and beige-suited dancers, and the poorer are the ones most impacted, represented by the blue and purple-suited dancers.

Chapter One was a brilliant dance piece that not only successfully commented on our current state of politics and societal dilemmas, but also showcased the excellence of our future Malaysian talents.

It was a privilege to have witnessed Izwan, Mahmud, Noraji and Mazalan’s artistry, as the quartet delivered such a strong and powerful performance, giving us a hopeful look at the dance art scene in Malaysia.


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Hamidah Abd Rahman is a writer under the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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