MAU: J-ASEAN Dance Collaboration (MAU) was performed in Istana Budaya on the 22nd November 8:00 pm and 23rd November 3:00 pm. A Kabuki and dance piece show casing traditional dance forms from 5 different nations (Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Philippines), split into 2 acts. The first act was a display of folk dances from each country whilst the second act a unification of all 5 dances in their traditional by using a central Kabuki theme.

The long process began in Japan when all the participants travelled to meet and rehearse for MAU, twice in 2013, once in June and again in August.  In June, it was the first time the participants came together and met the director, Mr. Fujima Kanjuro VIII. It was then that the cultural exchange began as each country had to show their traditional dances in order for Mr. Fujima to choreograph; it was also the first time the other countries were introduced to Kabuki.

In August, the participants met gain in Japan to begin rehearsing as by this time, Mr. Fujima had decided what he wanted for the show. MAU strove to create new bonds between Japan and its Asian counterparts. Although there was a language barrier, this did not slow the process down and with some occasional help from an interpreter the collaboration got on quickly.

The premier of the entire tour started in Jakarta on the 9th of November 2013, marking the beginning of MAU’s long journey. Even up to a week before the show the entire crew was still rehearsing under the watchful eye of Mr. Fujima to ensure that the show went according to plan.

Having premiered in Jakarta, MAU toured to Manila next before arriving in Kuala Lumpur on the 18th of November 2014. The big show required a two day set up to get the set done, technical crew from Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia worked together quickly and efficiently.

Bringing together 5 different countries on one stage is not an easy task, but by the time MAU reached KL, it was already a smooth piece of work with every dancer clear on their role.

The dance companies and schools that participated were Aswara Dance Company from Malaysia, Soke Fujima Ryu from Japan, Siong Leng Association from Singapore, Airdance from Philippines and LKB Saraswati of Indonesia.

On opening night Istana Budaya was crowded with people standing to sing the national anthem with gusto. Once the audience was seated the first half of the show was performed and received with a widespread applause. The zapin (a traditional Malaysian dance) was very well received as Malaysian audiences cheered enthusiastically to show support for their local comrades, there was even some hooting.

The second half was also well received with audiences laughing at the antics of the Kabuki clown who tried to raise the huge stage curtains alone. Entering from amongst the audiences also produced an enjoyable surprise for the guest in the front rows. Malaysian performers also stood out as Mak Yong does not only include dance but also singing _ they were greeted with great support.

After the performance a picture taking session was held much to the delight of the audiences. The performers were happy to stay in costume a little longer whilst the audience clamored to get their shots with them. It lasted a good 15 minutes with hopeful audiences even trying to follow the performers back to their dressing room.

MAU is hopefully one of the many traditional dance collaborations between Malaysia, Japan and other Southeast Asian counterparts so we may further strengthen cultural exchange.

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