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Ramli Ibrahim Steals Hearts In New York

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NEW YORK – After giving his first performance in New York’s Flushing district on Tuesday, Malaysian classical dance icon Datuk Ramli Ibrahim was given a rousing reception Friday night at the prestigious Asia Society where he performed with his Sutra Dance Theatre for two days.

He is here with his dance troupe which is performing ‘Krishna, Love Re-Invented’ through the vehicle of the 2,000-year-old Indian dance form called Odissi, which the dance maestro has specialised.

While the Flushing performance was co-hosted by the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, which is headed by Malaysian doctor Azimah Ehr, and the New York office of Tourism Malaysia, the Asia Society programme was partly supported by Rajika and Anupam Puri, with the major support coming from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Helen and Will Little, and the Leslie R. Samuels Foundation.

The two events at the Asia Society attracted not only large crowds of mainstream Americans but also American-Asians who included Indians, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Chinese and Japanese.

Rachel Cooper, Asia Society’s director of global performing arts and cultural programmes, who has lived in Indonesia and has an excellent knowledge of the Asean region, praised Malaysia’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity.

“The dances that you will see here tonight are really unique,” she exclaimed as she introduced Ramli and his troupe to the audience in the packed auditorium.

Ramli has been honoured with top awards in several countries because of his role in promoting goodwill and better understanding amongst different cultures through his dancing.

The Malaysian dancer, choreographer and teacher even received a national award from Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in 2011 for his outstanding contribution to promoting peace and understanding through his dancing.

In an interview with Bernama at the Asia Society yesterday, Ramli said he was “simply overwhelmed” by the response he had received in the New Year.

Ramli, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Western Australia in Perth, said his passion for dancing was so overwhelming that he decided to abandon his efforts to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and took to full-time Odissi dancing.

“I started with Bharatnatyam and then discovered Odissi, which I find more suited to my temperament,” said Ramli who has performed in many countries, and in more than 100 cities.

Recalling the long period of dedication and full commitment to the dance, he said: “I think one’s métier in dance or the arts is an ongoing journey of discovery. It’s not a completed journey where one counts the years and can claim that one has achieved perfection.

His dance troupe has performed many times in the USA.

“I first performed in New York in 1981 with the Sydney Dance Company where I was discovered by the great dancer, the late Indrani Rehman. She organised many performances for me in New York in the 90’s.

“We have had marvellous performances in Houston and Edmonton (Canada) for this tour and we look forward to performing in Washington DC which is our final stop in this tour,” said Ramli, describing the audiences at the Asia Society as “quite special”.

Ramli said that as soon as he returned to Malaysia, he and his troupe would prepare for their forthcoming tour of India in the third week of this month; he will be performing in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Baroda. – BERNAMA

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