Entertainment for January in Malaysia: The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Songs of the Wanderers

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This post was written by Sarah Rees


While the list of disadvantages of life in Malaysia is a short one for most expats, culture vultures often lament what they see as a lack of high-quality performances that are the norm in such cities as London, Paris, New York, and Vienna. Grumblers will be well and truly silenced, however, once January gets underway and two extraordinary events come to this Southeast Asian capital to delight those of all ages with an interest in spectacle, tradition, and the transformative power of theatre.


Those who are fortunate enough to have seen Songs of the Wanderers during its previous world tours can attest to the spellbinding skill of the Taiwanese contemporary dance group – Cloud Gate Dance Theatre – who created this much-performed piece.

The show is based on a book of the same name by Herman Hesse. Set in India, the story relates the journey of the Brahmin’s son Siddhartha as he attains a completion of the self. The spiritual elements of the story are brought captivatingly to life through the movements of the dancers, accompanied by the melodious sounds of Georgian folk music, and their progress is aided and hampered by the three-and-ahalf tonnes of golden rice that sit on stage, creating a truly unique theatrical piece.

Songs of the Wanderers is perhaps the most globally-recognised piece to be created by Cloud Gate, who arrived on the Taiwanese dance scene back in 1973.

The local people were enthralled by the new company’s contemporary style, and the group – headed by the internationally renowned choreographer Lin Hwai-min – has continued to drive the development of the contemporary arts while celebrating the traditional styles of the region.

Songs of the Wanderers sprung from Hwai-min’s creative mind and had its debut performance in 1994, but critical acclaim at home and globally caused the show to tour the world for nearly two decades since, racking up more than 160 shows worldwide.

This remarkable show makes a stop in KL this month, and the special 2013 edition presents the well-known piece with one special addition. Cloud Gate have teamed up with the State Academic Ensemble of Georgian Folk Song and Dance, the latter performing the melodic songs that underpin the movements live on stage and thus bringing together two extraordinary companies who each celebrate the cultural richness of their homelands.

The legendary Georgian company was formed in 1968 by a famous singer and folklorist, Anzor Erkomoais, the seventh generation in his family to pursue the traditional art. By bringing together singers and culture from all parts of the country, Anzor created a company to “break through ethnic boundaries of regional styles” and preserve the authentic music of Georgia, while seeking to present it in a more contemporary manner. The company’s presence on stage with Cloud Gate will add yet another layer to this intriguing, emotive performance, and allow audience members to admire two internationally renowned companies that are flying the flag for the traditional culture of their respective home nations.


Songs of the Wanderers 2013 takes to the stage of Istana Budaya from 11-13 January, while Professor Jiang Xun, a celebrated master of aesthetics from Taiwan, will be hosting a seminar on 13 January in conjunction with the performance, entitled This Life – The Awakening of the Corporeal Body. Visit www.ticketpro.com.my for details and tickets.


From one stunning celebration of art to another, perhaps older craft: ballet. From the moment the French developed this style of dancing in the 1700s, ballet has set the benchmark for technical prowess, skill, and stamina among dancers worldwide,

who are tasked with the challenge of appearing graceful despite the rigorous strain and effort required to dance well.

Despite the French connection, ballet has become synonymous with Russia, and the latter has long been credited with producing some of the best dancers and productions in the world. This dance form first seized the nation’s interest back in the 1700s, when the French ballet instructor Jean Baptiste Lande was invited, as part of Peter the Great’s bid to modernise the country, to bring his dancers to perform. The Empress Anna, who caught the performance, was entranced, and immediately set up her own academy. The Imperial Russian Ballet has now become the oldest ballet academy in the country – known today as the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet.

The country has, over the years, developed its own style of dance much-admired to this day, and one of the “must-do” activities on a visit to Russia is to see a ballet, usually at the legendary Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Russian stars also embark on world tours to share their skill with audiences throughout the globe, and Malaysia will be fortunate enough to receive one such visit this month.

Stars of the Moscow Ballet arrive in the capital in January for performances of what must be two of the most well-known ballets of all time; Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Not only have these shows been timelessly loved and cherished throughout the world, they also team Russian dancers with the beautiful sounds of Russian composer Tchaikovsky’s much-played scores, which will be brought to life by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO).

First on the calendar is The Nutcracker, a ballet that has become something of a seasonal favourite as it follows the adventures of the young Clara on Christmas Eve as her Nutcracker toy comes to life. This show premiered in Russia in the late 1800s, but it only became the hugely popular show it is today during the 1960s. Next up is Swan Lake – the classic yet tragic tale of the beautiful Odette who has been cursed to spend her life as a swan. The show premiered in Moscow in 1877 under the name The Lake of the Swans, and has most recently enjoyed a moment on the big screen courtesy of Natalie Portman in the Oscar-winning movie Black Swan.

Stars of the Moscow Ballet and the MPO will present The Nutcracker from 1113 January and Swan Lake from 18-20 January. Show times are at 8pm on Friday and Saturday, and 3pm on Sunday, and tickets are priced from RM80-RM300. Visit www.mpo.com.my or call the box office on 03.2051 7007 for information and tickets.


Source: The Expat January 2013


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