MAK YONG- MALAYSIA

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MAK YONG DANCE, MALAYSIA

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Declared in 2005 by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece Of The Oral And the Intangible Heritage of Humanity” is a Southeast Asian dance form known as Mak Yong. This “traditional and theatrical” dance style is said to have originated from a state called Kelantan located in northern Malaysia. Furthermore, a majority of the stories narrated through this dance have been obtained from the “Kelantan-Pattani” mythology. In addition, this dance involves paying homage to spirits known locally as “semah kumpung”. This unique theatrical dance was also banned in the year 1991 by the “Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party” due to its Hindu-Buddhist origins.

a. History/origin of Mak Yong:

According to the cultural history of Malaysia, this dance form was initially created as a form of folk theatre which included rituals. Apparently, it was first developed in the Pattani Kingdom now a province in Thailand. A popular legend also states that this dance may also have been developed as a tribute to a rice spirit called “Mak Hiang”. However, there exists yet another folklore that suggests that this dance was created by a clown like divine being known as “Semar”. Furthermore, this dance is said to have been performed mainly in the royal court in Malaysia until the 1920’s, after which it became public. This dance then continued to be performed publically right until 1960’s/70’s when the revival of Islam eventually led to it being banned from the culture.

b. Costumes used in the Mak Yong:

The costumes used in this dance form include a silk kebaya along with a gold and diamond brooch, a silk wrap tied along with belt, and a border cloth that hangs from the shoulder. In addition, it also includes pemeles, golden hand thread, golden foot bangles, and rings.

c. Music involved in the Mak Yong:

The musical instruments mainly used in this dance style include a three stringed spiked lute, gendang (a drum), a pair of gongs, serunai i.e. a flute, and kesi i.e. small cymbals.

d. Training availability and technique involved in the Mak Yong:

In terms of technique, this dance basically involves elements belonging to acting such as improvisation in dialogues. Furthermore, the lead dancer (male) is known as “Pak Yong” and dresses up like a king, while the female performer plays the role of the queen, and represents the second lead. In addition, the performers presents a story for about three hours over several days. As for training centers/schools, there are none available around the world since this “traditional and theatrical” dance is mainly performed in Malaysia.

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