Dancer Ramli Ibrahim who performs in the city today talks about the art of balancing the classical and the contemporary
With a restless mind and a lithe frame, Ramli Ibrahim flits around the creative world with the ease of a bird. Those faultless stances, stylised moves and unbridled emotions in his dance assume different imageries at different times and places but this Malay artiste looks almost the way he did when he first took to the stage more than four decades ago. Fit as a dancer should be, he continues to stun audiences with his rhythmic spins, fluid leaps and sudden stillness.
“My art, not my body, carries all the weight,” he laughs. Indeed. His performances are not just choreographic showpieces that expound the technique and vocabulary of a dance form. Through them, he redraws artistic boundaries, connects cultures and instils nouveau energy into his art. “My dance is a convergence of poetry, sculpture, painting, architecture and music. All these elements give my productions completeness.”
He is in the city with Transfigurations — a modern dance production that will feature She Ra, a work by Dutch-born Indian artiste Kalpana Raghuraman, and L’apre Midi d’un Faune and River Sutra created by Ramli and his dance company Sutra’s senior dancers.
“Choreography is not weaving together gestures and expressions. It’s an individualistic point of view. It’s the outcome of your understanding and assimilation. It’s creating your niche,” says the engineer-turned-dancer. “I restrict choreography mostly to modern pieces and like to perform classical works as they have been done over the years. You relive tradition through the classical arts and reflect the ‘now’ through contemporary creations.”
Does he encounter confused narratives straddling two completely different genres? “Challenges spur me. Art is continuum. It has to be inclusive,” he quips.
He is constantly thinking of ways to take his dance to the general audience. “It has to shed its avant garde label to reach out to the youth — the future. You need to draw from current issues and sensibilities. Art shouldn’t distance itself from life. Through the young artistes in my Sutra dance company I try to bridge the generation and cultural gap.”
Though Malaysia is where he hails from and lives, Ramli set out on a cultural voyage early in life. Drawn towards Indian classical arts, he trained in Odissi (under Deba Prasad Das) and Bharatanatyam (Adyar K. Lakshman). Then taken in by the beauty of modern dance, he learnt the Martha Graham technique and also mastered many folk forms of his home country. “I don’t think that debate about cultural identity has ever bothered me. It’s difficult to define who I am. I become the art form and the part I perform on stage. Dance is theatre and artistes are actors. Though you often draw from your own experiences, you also want to take the audience into another world of beauty and calm.”
Transfigurations will be performed at Chinmaya Heritage Centre today at 7 p.m. For details call, 42115596.