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Malaysia says Singapore ballet show can go on

Malaysia denied reports that it blocked a performance by a Singapore ballet troupe due to squeamishness over tights-wearing dancers. -AFP

Thu, Apr 05, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia on Thursday denied reports that the Muslim-majority country blocked a performance by a Singapore ballet troupe due to squeamishness over tights-wearing dancers and said the show could go on.

However, the Singapore Dance Theatre had earlier said it was too late to stage the performance after it said Malaysian authorities this week denied them approval for the weekend appearance in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

"There is no ban and the show should go on as planned," Rais Yatim, minister of information, communications and culture, was quoted saying by state news agency Bernama.

Janek Schergen, artistic director of Singapore Dance Theatre, told AFP the organisation had been seeking approval for licenses to perform but was denied without explanation.

However, Bilqis Hijjas, president of Malaysian arts group MyDance Alliance, said the move was taken out of concern over the "indecency" of the costumes.

The Singapore dance group was scheduled to perform a selection of classical ballet works including "The Nutcracker", which was to be performed in traditional short tutu and tights.

The Malaysian government occasionally pulls the plug on shows by foreign - usually Western - artists out of fear of angering conservative Muslims.

In February, Rais announced a ban on a concert by American singer Erykah Badu after a photo of her with body art including the Arabic word for "Allah" was published in a Malaysian newspaper.

He had said the Badu show was scuttled out of respect for "religious sensitivities and cultural values".

But he was quoted Thursday by Bernama as saying the costumes for the ballet performance should not be a problem.

"I mean, ballet doesn't go with big gowns, does it?" he said. Schergen said it was "certainly too late" now but added the performance could take place later in the year.

He also was sceptical of a comment by Rais, who was quoted saying no application to perform had been received.

"We had someone talking to them on Tuesday so it is strange that now they say they have not received anything," he said.

All of the costumes for women were to include long skirts except for "The Nutcracker".

Bilqis, whose group promotes dance, called the alleged permit denial "deplorable" and warned it would make Malaysia appear an unreliable host for cultural performances, scaring off foreign arts investors.

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