10 things about: Aida Redza, champion of dancing in the streets

Picture by K. E. Ooi
Picture by K. E. Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, May 4 — Fans of theatre and dance know Aida Redza as a fearless performer. But if you asked her, she would probably describe herself as someone who uses dance to speak on behalf of the community, and the environment.
Trained in both Western contemporary dance and traditional Malay dance, Aida has also worked in various dance companies abroad.

Her passion for dance spills over into her work with young people through Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio where she, along with five other artists, seeks to bring the performing arts to the everyday people in a language everyone understands.

As part of this philosophy, Aida Redza, 44, loves performing outdoors. She performed on the streets of George Town at last year’s George Town Festival.

Bridges and Kaki Lima sought to revitalise the tradition of street performances. What else does she hope to do with dance?

In her own words:

  • I think that being an artist means we have to always contribute back into developing the young and I’ve always liked that.
  • I realised how art doesn’t relate to society and its challenges; we are so bourgeois, sitting with the high rollers and out of the reach of everyday people on the streets.
  • So, my Masters research was about traditional performance as a source of healing for the community and to use it to bring the community together. I wanted to do work to reach out to people, to make it into a conductive environment where everyday people can be there.
  • My work now is also about advocacy for women’s rights, to stop sexual harassment, stop abuse, also to talk about the environment… car-free days... and the form I use is what people now are appreciating which is a flashmob where you come in, do it and raise awareness.
  • I also do projects, just purely dance, these I still do outdoors... that’s my interest now, not so much in theatre and lightbox because when you go to places like that, the audience that you bring in are those who can pay and who are already exposed so you don’t get regular everyday people on the streets like when you do the dance outdoors.
  • I also set up, as an administrator, Penang Arts Link, which is a network of friends, to inspire dance studios and teachers to create a group called Penang Dance Makers to look into producing the Penang International Dance Festival, our own festival, next year, instead of riding on George Town Festival… so that we can highlight dance and all the talents in dance and to give more opportunities for younger talents.
  • In other countries, artists can go from one project to another, they are always gaining income which they can save up to use and in Europe, they have social security, so if they don’t have a job, they can survive.
  • For artists In Malaysia, it’s different.  You can’t be independent and your projects usually pay two to three months later so income is not consistent.
  • What is lacking in Penang is we don’t have enough production companies, we don’t have people to come in to produce and it is important that people in Penang share the resources, to allow artists to work in various productions instead of working only for one company. We have talents but they work full time and only a few people can come out.
  • Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio… we want to work on Penang oral stories, on history but in terms of contemporary, it’s about multicultural qualities dying off and finding a language to make a new multicultural Malaysia in music theatre and dance. 

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