Mak Yong storybook aims to preserve the endangered traditional Malay dance

Dancers from the Mak Yong Bunga Emas Sri Temenggong group performing at the book launch. — Pix by Ham Abu Bakar
Dancers from the Mak Yong Bunga Emas Sri Temenggong group performing at the book launch. — Pix by Ham Abu Bakar

PETALING JAYA, Aug 16 — In an attempt to preserve endangered Kelantanese dance Mak Yong, Kakiseni and MPH Publishing today launched a children’s book titled The Girl Who Loves to Dance today.

The illustrated storybook is the second book in the Hikayat series following last year’s wayang kulit Kelantan edition, Shadows.

‘The Girl Who Loves to Dance’ illustrator Serah Boey (left) and author Arisha Akhir.
‘The Girl Who Loves to Dance’ illustrator Serah Boey (left) and author Arisha Akhir.

The Hikayat series aims to introduce traditional performing arts to schoolchildren through stories, workshops and performances.

Written by Arisha Akhir and illustrated by Serah Boey, The Girl Who Loves to Dance centres around a young Malaysian girl named Nana who discovers the beauty of Mak Yong through her grandmother.

“We realised that children have never seen any of their heritage performances,” said Kakiseni general manager David Chin.

“Mak Yong is the only traditional Malaysian dance that is recognised by Unesco but it is banned in Kelantan, its birthplace — how is this possible?”

The ancient dance-theatre art form was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco in 2005.

At the launch, Kumpulan Mak Yong Bunga Emas Sri Temenggong from Universiti Malaysia Kelantan performed the Mengadap Rebab, the mandatory prologue that takes place before each Mak Yong performance.

Chin said Kakiseni wants to create a platform for groups like Mak Yong Bunga Emas Sri Temenggong to showcase their talents.

“The reason why we see a lot of performing arts going extinct is because they don’t have any opportunity to work.

“We hope to create opportunities by having artists in schools nationwide which would give them the chance to perform to get children excited and pass on the knowledge that they have,” said Chin.

He added that Kakiseni plans to bring Mak Yong workshops and performances to more local schools.

For every book purchased, Kakiseni will deliver a copy to a child from Dignity for Children, the non-profit organisation that offers education to disadvantaged children.

The Girl Who Loves to Dance retails at MPH and MPH Online for RM19.90.

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