When contemporary dance choreographer, teacher and artistee Kenny Shim decided to return to Malaysia from London where he was based, many of his friends were surprised.
“Why do you want to come back? There isn’t much hope for the arts here,” Shim related when we met for an interview recently at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
However, he stuck to his guns, and came back to the country last year.
“I chose to believe (that there was hope), especially when I look at how people have a stronger voice now, as shown through the recent 14th General Election. People are a lot more aware, more educated and know what they want.
“And because of that, I do see a future in Malaysia and I do believe that (the new) political situation does influence every other industry, and not just the arts. It’s going to be a long process and we need to be patient about it, but I want to be a part of that change,” asserted Shim.
The 29-year-old graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary Dance from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, in 2015.
He went on to obtain his Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Dance from the London Contemporary Dance School the following year, and completed his Masters in Contemporary Dance this year.
Previously attached to the EDge Dance Company, Shim’s repertoire in London included working with dancers from the Random Dance Company, as well as artistes like Gary Lambert, Alison Curtis-Jones, Zoè Dimitriou and Susan Sentler.
Currently, Shim is head of dance and musical theatre at the British Academy of Performing Arts in Petaling Jaya.
To date, he has choreographed and performed many solo and group dance presentations in both Britain and Malaysia.
Recently, he choreographed Triple Bill, comprising three contemporary dance works of which two are newly crafted (Winged Wolves And The Bamboo Mew and Pieces Of Three Movements, the latter being an original choreography by Shim and Lee Jia Xi), while the third was a re-staged production entitled Rite.
“As a choreographer, I am extremely pleased with how the audience has perceived the works, and also how the dancers have, in the process of (doing the performances), contributed their own ideas about what the topics were.
“I think that was what I found most positive about the works,” said Shim, adding that they also wanted the performances to open up a platform for conversation with the audience.
Winged Wolves And The Bamboo Mew is inspired by German playwright Frank Wedekind’s popular play named Spring Awakening (Frühlings Erwachen) and explores the issue of society’s perception on sexuality.
Rite, created in 2015 to challenge the idea of masculinity, won the Best Student Choreo-graphy in Trinity Laban and subsequently received funding from the London Contemporary Dance School to restage and tour the piece to Portugal in 2016 as part of the Famalicao Dance Festival.
In a few weeks’ time, Shim will start choreographing for the Boh Cameronian Awards, to be held on Dec 24. He is also choreographing a musical that will play in December as well.
One of the most challenging aspects of being a contemporary dance artiste in Malaysia, said Shim, is lack of government support, especially in terms of funding because of the repercussions involved.
“For example, dancers don’t have a stable job, as putting up quality shows demands time and effort but adequate payment is not there. That financial stability needs to be there for artistes to be able to focus on honing their craft,” he said.
Shim hopes that an Arts Council can be set up in Malaysia, which is represented by different performing arts forms.
“The council should then receive a certain amount of funding – from the government and the corporate sector – which is then distributed fairly by the council to the various members,” he said.