Singapore tutus just too, too much for Malaysia

Posted at 04/05/12 10:40 AM

SINGAPORE - Malaysia has denied a permit for a Singapore dance troupe to perform The Nutcracker and other ballet works due to concerns about "indecent" costumes, media in both countries reported.

"Ballet Illuminations" was supposed to run for three shows this weekend but the Singapore Dance Theatre was told by the venue that an agency of the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry withheld permission without explanation.

That came as a shock to the dance troupe, which has staged ballets in neighboring Malaysia - with similar classical tutus and tights - for the last two years without any problems.

Bilqis Hijjas, president of the MyDance Alliance in Kuala Lumpur, said the decision was "deplorable" and would damage Malaysia's reputation as a host for arts events.

"Ballet dancers in Baghdad are allowed to wear ballet costumes on stage," Bilqis told the Malaysian Insider website.

"Are we to understand that the Malaysian public is less cosmopolitan, less morally resilient and less broad minded than the citizens of a Middle Eastern country that has been ripped to shreds by war and violence?"

The ministry could not be reached for comment.

The majority of Malaysians are Muslims and conservative attitudes have become more prevalent in recent years, but the capital is a culturally vibrant centre with large numbers of ethnic Chinese, Indians and western expatriates.

Janek Schergen, the dance troupe's artistic director, questioned the rationale behind the decision.

"It cannot be an issue of the costumes and the content," he said. "The Nutcracker is one of the most respected, classic and family friendly dances there are."