SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The abrupt cancellation of shows by a Singaporean ballet troupe in Malaysia has caused a tempest in a tutu, with the government saying the dancers applied too late for a permit to perform, and a local group blaming cultural concern over “indecent” costumes.
‘Ballet Illuminations’ by the Singapore Dance Theatre was supposed to run this weekend, and many tickets had been sold for performances of The Nutcracker and other works.
But without a permit, the show cannot go on.
Malaysian government agency Puspal, which handles cultural events, said media reports about a permit rejection were “unfounded and inaccurate”, adding that the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre did not apply until midday on Thursday.
“We have no objection to the show,” Rais Yatim, the minister for Information, Communications and Culture, told Reuters in a text message.
Bilqis Hijjas, president of the MyDance Alliance in Kuala Lumpur, said she got a different message when she talked to the performing arts centre.
“They received a verbal response to the application,” Bilqis said. “It was rejected as the costumes were seen as indecent.”
The performing arts centre could not be reached for comment but the Malaysian Insider website said the venue had applied for a permit “months ago” on behalf of the Singapore troupe.
The majority of Malaysians are Muslims, and conservative attitudes have become more prevalent in recent years, but the capital is a culturally vibrant centre with large numbers of ethnic Chinese, Indians and western expatriates.
The cancellation came as a shock to the Singapore Dance Theatre, which has staged ballets in neighbouring Malaysia - with similar classical tutus and tights - for the last two years without any problems.
The troupe’s general manager, Aleksandra Lis, said she did not know the details of the permit process, which was handled by the venue in Kuala Lumpur.
“Our dance company is the ambassador of the arts for Singapore. That’s why we are postponing it, we aren’t cancelling it,” she said. “We are looking for a suitable date to come again, probably in the second half of the year.”
Reporting by John O'Callaghan; Additional reporting by Niluksi Koswanage in Kuala Lumpur and Leonard How in Singapore; Editing by Daniel Magnowski