Sunday, July 27, 2014

Restaging a local arts extravaganza in Kuching

SPECTACULAR! Delightful! Magical and of a professionally high standard.

These words are among the audience’s descriptions of the Life in the Jungle ballet production this past January.

In response to popular request, this local arts extravaganza will be restaged in Kuching this August.

The multi-faceted production, involving more than 150 local youth performers from LayNa Ballet Academy, Institute of Teacher Education Batu Lintang Campus and the Sarawak State Symphonic Orchestra (SONS), made its three-night debut in January at the former Legislative State Assembly building in Petra Jaya.

The proceeds of RM65,000 raised from individual and corporate sponsorships, as well as ticket and souvenir sales, were donated to Sarawak Kidney Association, Community Based Rehabilitation Centre and Kuching Society for the Urban Poor.

This restage will feature differences from the January production. Besides benefiting a different group of local charities – the Lions’ Club Cornea Transplant project, Meeting Needs and the Sarawak Kidney Association – the restage offers a better audience experience.

“One of our biggest challenges has been to improve the audience experience in a cost-effective way” said Megan Chalmers in addressing the difficulties of viewing the stage from the back parts of the performance venue.

“We are, thus, going to raise the audience up on platforms hired for the event to improve their view of the show.”

The performers, ranging from ballet dancers, vocalists and narrators to instrumentalists and cultural dancers, after having spent countless hours rehearsing for the January show, are now eager to reunite in bringing alive this Iban legend for Kuching audiences once again.


The ballet is based on the works of Heidi Munan and Julia Chong for an operetta of the same name, staged 30 years ago in Kuching.

In 1984, vocalists from the Polyhymnia Choral Society told the story through Munan’s witty libretto put to Chong’s music with live musical accompaniment, provided by Marcus Leong’s orchestra.

In January, in memory of the 30th anniversary of Chong’s passing, 100 ballet dancers portrayed the Iban legend of the Pong Kapong bird through Chan Lay Na’s choreography, aided by a 30-member choir under the direction of Chong’s daughter, Pek Lin, together with a full symphonic orchestra conducted by Leong’s son, Victor.

Anthony Wong provided the orchestral arrangement of Chong’s music and made it complete for the ballet with additions of his own compositions, working closely with the three directors.

Two narrators strung together the three acts of the ballet with their lines based on Munan’s script while more of their ITE Batu Lintang colleagues grounded the audience in a Borneoan experience through their roles as cultural dancers, actors and instrumentalists.

The costume and set designs, headed by Chalmers, further enabled the performers onstage to internalise their roles as inhabitants of our local rainforests.

Following the January production, the committee received numerous exaltations from members of the audience.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Restaging a local arts extravaganza in Kuching