Organised by the Oriental Dance Arts Association of Kuching (ODAAK), this event was a one-day competition that ended with a gala at night. There were also dance workshops conducted by the invited instructors (who were also the competition judges and performers), held over the weekend after the competition which was held on Friday, 2nd December 2016.
Since its inception in 2012, ODAAK has organised many competitions, workshops, instructor certification courses and numerous charity shows. The Malaysia World Oriental Dance Arts Competition (MWODAC), part of the Malaysia World Oriental Dance Arts Festival, is now in its fourth year, and I had the honour of emceeing this competition for the second year in a row.
ABOUT THE COMPETITION
This year, the competition was held in the auditorium of HELP CAT, which was the same location as the 6th Oriental Dance Xpression; and it had a lovely stage and good sound system. It was a different location from the competition’s venue last year, which was at the DBKL Auditorium. It wasn’t that the DBKL Auditorium wasn’t good; HELP CAT had ample parking both inside and outside the building. I remember having trouble finding visitor parking at DBKL, and ended up parking quite far.
Held in true belly dance competition style, MWODAC gives every dancer her or his time to shine on stage. Every participant has her or his own choice of music, with the choice of props; and the stage all to themselves. Because of this, the organisers can only accept a certain number of entries to ensure that it could all fit in one day.
The competition had several categories for both adult and children in the solo and troupe divisions.
Jasmine Tan, the president of ODAAK and the head organiser of MWODAC, had planned the competition agenda with excellent forethought. The competition started at 10am with the adult categories, and the children’s categories were only in the afternoon towards the end of the competition. Knowing how restless children can get, she had arranged it so that the children would not have to wait very long before their prize presentation at night.
The people that really need to be commended are the judges for the competition. Not only did they have to judge the competition all day, they even performed for the gala that night. I’m sure it must be rather exhausting, as they had to be attentive throughout the competition to give the dancers a fair judging. Of course they were assigned shifts so that there would be breaks, but some judges had to work back to back, but all of them worked uncomplainingly. In fact, the judges were the most supportive within the crowd – smiling and nodding when the dancers did spectacularly, and made a lot of supportive noise, leading the audience to join in, in order to encourage the dancers to do well.
As for the participants… well, belly dancers have always blown me away, with their dedication to this art form. The level of this competition was simply incredible! We saw some of the best dancers come from all over Asia, including Taiwan, China, Singapore, Vietnam, Korea, and of course, Malaysia, with a total of over 200 entries.
I’m no expert, and I really don’t want to look like I’m playing favourites, but I feel some of the dancers deserve a special mention.
The professional Taiwanese troupe 法老與舞姬異國舞蹈工作室中壢教室 was back again. Individually, every dancer was highly skilled; together they displayed amazing synchronicity and teamwork! Spoiler alert: It is no wonder they were the champion of the Professional Troupe category.
I also want to say how blown away I was by a Chinese dancer who goes by the name Summer Deng. Perhaps he is famous in the belly dance community, but this competition was the first time I saw him dance. The only male participant, he outshone everyone else in the competition. One of the amazing things about him for me personally was how he had put on a belly dance dress for his routine – and not only did he pull it off, he made it work beautifully. Most male dancers would wear a clearly non-feminine costume with pants when dancing; Summer actually wore a skirt for his routines. When he walked out on stage, he didn’t even look out of place; it just looked slightly unusual. And once he started moving, he showed clearly how the skirt was an important part of the routine. I thought Summer was fantastic, and he truly deserved his champion titles for both the Professional Solo and Fusion Solo categories.
Once the competition came to a close about 9:15pm, we went on straight to the gala show section of the night.
The gala started with a beautiful choreography by May Tan & Chin Wei, featuring the lovely dancers from Dance Floor & The Move Dance Studio.
This was followed with the solo performances of every judge.
The first judge to perform was Yasmin Seo from Korea. Beautiful and exquisite, Yasmin was perfection on stage. Yasmin started oriental dance in 2003, and has been studying under various gurus in Egypt, Turkey, Russia, China, and Spain.
Kenny Chan from Sarawak was the next to grace the stage. With his wide background in various styles of belly dancing, Hindi and Punjabi dancing, he was able to produce an amazing dance fusion on stage. Strong and powerful, Kenny was mesmerising on stage.
The next performer was the highly accomplished FatemaRaks from Singapore. With plenty of awards and titles under her belt, she was effortless and graceful in her performance.
The highly accomplished Pheona Yan from China was next, and she was grace onstage. She has won several awards in China, and is the special guest, instructor and judge of many major Oriental Dance Festivals.
We were next graced with a breathtaking performance by Joe Tian from Taiwan. His performance was full of showmanship and never-ending surprises! His background included a huge repertoire of dances, such as jazz, modern, and Latin; enabling him to combine the best of both the ancient and modern styles of dance.
The next performer was one of the highlights of the evening – Alla Vatc from Russia. She has won many national and international dance competitions, and has also founded the Cairo Stars Fetival in China. Alla has been invited to teach workshops in many countries and was the master teacher at AhlanWaSahlan Festival in Cairo, the biggest Oriental Dance festival.
The next performer is the fantastic Do Thi Hong Hanh from Vietnam. She is highly accomplished and is the champion of numerous tribal belly dance competitions all over the world. She is undoubtedly one of the best tribal belly dancers in the world. I loved all the performances in this gala tonight, but I found Hanh’s showmanship simply mind-blowing. She had made up and dressed up to look like Harley Quinn, and she brought the character to life. Her technique was superb, her expression deathly scary, and her execution was flawless. I will add the video link once it has been uploaded on ODAAK’s website – it is a performance you would not want to miss!
Another special mention is the fantabulous Nadia from Japan, who now resides in Singapore. She has won many international and local belly dance competitions, and has been featured on various broadcasted and published media, including TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. And the amazing thing about her is that she performed perfectly tonight – while being 7 months pregnant!
The final gala performer was also one of the participants of the competition, but there was a special reason she was extended the honour of being a performer. One of the most highly accomplished young belly dancers in Malaysia and the title holder of many championships across Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Macau, the list of competitions she has won would fill several pages. Michelle Teo deserved the special award Champion of the Champions that Jasmine Tan bestowed upon her.
The gala show was that followed with the prize presentation.
Jasmine Tan, with her heart of gold, did not let any competitor go home empty-handed. Every participant went home with a medal and certificate. The prize presentation took some time because of this, but it was worth it as every dancer was given her or his due recognition onstage.
Here are the top results of this year’s competition:
Best Costume (solo): Yunseo Park
Best Costume (troupe): 法老與舞姬異國舞蹈工作室中壢教室
Best Stage Performance (solo): Yunseo Park
Best Stage Performance (troupe): CS Sister Duet
Champion: CS Sister Duet
1st Runner Up: Ismahan Troupe
2nd Runner Up: JAC Troupe
3rd Runner Up: Daughter of Goddess
4th Runner Up: Cheeky Girls
JUNIOR A SOLO (4-7 YEARS OLD)
Champion: Ang Ying Yi
1st Runner Up: Sophia Gwen
2nd Runner Up: Cheryl Soo
3rd Runner Up: Chia Jing Xuan
4th Runner Up: Tay Jia Qi
JUNIOR B SOLO (8-10 YEARS OLD)
Champion: Sherlyn Wong
1st Runner Up: Isabelle Lau
2nd Runner Up: Charmaine Feng
3rd Runner Up: Tan Ro Anne
4th Runner Up: Goh Zi Tong
JUNIOR C SOLO (11-12 YEARS OLD)
Champion: Wong Jin Ern
1st Runner Up: Lee En Yi
2nd Runner Up: Nahyeon Kim
3rd Runner Up: Margery Sii
4th Runner Up: Jieun Kim
Champion: Yunseo Park
1st Runner Up: Michelle Teo
2nd Runner Up: Ng Khai Yi
3rd Runner Up: Jess Lim
4th Runner Up: Wong Kah Yi
Champion: Hourriya Rouhi Troupe
1st Runner Up: BelleCrystal
2nd Runner Up: Jubilee
3rd Runner Up: Bellyarn
4th Runner Up: Belly Button
1st Runner Up: The S Belly Troupe
2nd Runner Up: Crystal V
Champion: Vietnam Team
1st Runner Up: Almas Bellyrinas
2nd Runner Up: Bellyarn
Champion: Adeline Cheng
1st Runner Up: Sheila Low
2nd Runner Up: Agnes Ooi
3rd Runner Up: Victoria Ong
4th Runner Up: Lily Tee
Champion: Wong Kah Yean
1st Runner Up: Audrey Soong
2nd Runner Up: Nguyễn Thuỳ Trang
3rd Runner Up: Bùi Thanh Huyền
4th Runner Up: Freesia Goh
Champion: Summer Deng
1st Runner Up: Nguyễn Thuỳ Trang
2nd Runner Up: 田叶飞
3rd Runner Up: Bùi Thanh Huyền
4th Runner Up: 谭诗弋
Champion: Summer Deng
1st Runner Up: 田叶飞
2nd Runner Up: Susan Hong
3rd Runner Up: 罗燕阳
4th Runner Up: Seung Hee Han
Photos can be purchased from Idolhunter LC Kuang, and the video DVD of the entire competition and gala can be ordered directly from ODAAK. You can also view the photos and videos from the competition and gala on ODAAK’s Facebook Page (which is where I got the above videos from).
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I will admit it – I am not an experienced emcee. In fact, my first experience emceeing a dance competition was last year’s festival, the Malaysian World Oriental Dance Arts Competition 2015. Of course it wasn’t my first emceeing job; but I am fairly certain that I made a few rookie mistakes. It was heartwarming when judges, competitors, and members of the audience came up to me (without me fishing or prompting, in case you were wondering) to tell me that I did a good job; and it was very humbling for me when Jasmine engaged me again for the following year.
I cannot speak enough of Jasmine’s heart of gold. As the head organiser, she provided well for everyone in the organising committee, including me. She would step in to take over the mic to give me lunch and dinner breaks (with the meals provided for), and she would take over to read the judges/performers’ profiles which were written in Mandarin (the ones from China and Taiwan).
And the best surprise in store for me was when she presented me with a certificate and a medal – for the “Best Emcee“! This is one of the best medals I’ve ever received!
I am truly blessed, as I got to meet and watch some of the best dancers in the world onstage – and yes, many of them are from this region!
And even though all the judges/performers were so accomplished and talented, they still remained humble and kind. I cannot speak enough about how friendly they are, and how generous and giving they were as instructors. I would have been able to chat more with them if I could speak Mandarin. Motivation for me to start picking it up.
Also managed to snag a few photos with some of the competitors. Wish I could have taken photos with more of them!
Malaysia World Dance Arts Festival, organised by Oriental Dance Arts Association Kuching, is an amazing festival with an incredibly high level of dancing in both the competition and the gala. If you are considering joining a belly dance competition, this is one you should definitely consider; and if you are interested to watch, this is one that you should definitely go for, as it showcases some of the best local and international belly dancers.
So make a date with MWODAC 2017, which will be held this year on 1 December 2017 at HELP CAT. Stay up to date about the competition here!
See you there!