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On Nature's Stage

Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio, a local performing arts group, is known not only for its exploration of community productions, but also for its exploration of space.  While many of their prior performances have focused on urban areas, primarily in and around the UNESCO World Heritage zone in George Town, this past weekend found the group utilizing the green spaces of the 125 year-old Penang Botanic Gardens.

Using boria*, rap, gamelan** and everyday objects as percussion, young musicians & dancers told stories about the garden and the need to conserve our environment.  The sounds, movements, and ideas of the performance were based on the personal observations of the children during their journey through the gardens. 
“This is the first musical performance we’ve held in the gardens, about the gardens.” said Rashidah, a representative from the Friends of Botanic Gardens.

After the kid's performance, three teenage boys led the audience to an open grass area for a youthful, energetic & playful dance interpretation on the source of our water.  Unfortunately, but appropriately, heavy rain fell the moment the music started.  The boys were not deterred however, and gave it their best in the muddy puddles in the grass to an appreciative audience.   
Umbrellas in hand, the audience was then led by frog-impersonating performers along the stream to a grassy area overlooking the natural "stage" - a steep slope above the flowing water.  With the rain continuing and the occasional monkey running by, the last piece, a contemporary work by four adult performers - Hil, Izzard, Edward and me, was an exploration of movement based on the surroundings & haunting past of the gardens.
Together with the rest of the team, we hope the audience took with them a lasting impression of the site and ultimately, a greater appreciation for the gardens.

For those of you who missed the performance, here is a short clip.

I dedicate this post to Aida (dance director), Sooi Beng & Lai Chee (music directors), my dance teammates, the wonderful production team and the all the talented kids who worked so hard over the past month to make the performance a success. 

*Boria is a traditional music and dance sketch, with its origin from India. In Malaysia, it can be found mainly in Penang.
**Gamelan is a musical ensemble, featuring an assortment of instruments such as xylophones, metallophones, bamboo flutes, drums and gongs.

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