Nama Beta Sultan Alauddin: A Dance Theater

This whole month of July 2011, Kuala Lumpur is filled with celebration of art, culture and history. Kuala Lumpur Festival 2011 has organized tonnes and tonnes of activities, events and free art performances for public participation or viewing. There was endless photography opportunities. Unfortunately, I was only free during the weekends.

Last Saturday night, right after a long, tiring, dreadful work at construction site (sometimes I feel like a cheap manual labor worker) I decided to cap off the long week by watching a dance theater at Panggung Bandaraya showcasing a dance theater performance by DBKL. The title of the theater was Nama Beta Sultan Alauddin (loosely translated as "my name is Sultan Alauddin). It has been quite a long while since I last caught a live performance or theatre show such as this, and indeed I was eagerly looking forward to it. Shutter therapy that involves a great entertainment performance, and I did not even have to move much, gluing my butt on the comfortable seat for a span of an hour and a half, it was a good way to relax, and rid my mind temporarily off all the dramas and traumas in my life recently.

All images were taken with Olympus E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 ED mk1

Sultan Mansur inspecting the death of his nephew, killed by his eldest prince, Raja Ahmad.

Young Sultan Alauddin to take over the throne. Keris (a variant of dagger with curved blade is the symbol of power.

A King's morning, dressing up.

A Queen's dance.

Malacca old market scene.

The show was a biography of the kind and respected Sultan Alauddin who once ruled the land of Malacca long time ago. Sultan Alauddin was not the heir to the throne, it was his elder brother, Raja Ahmad who was originally chosen to rule the empire of Malacca after the passing of their father, Sultan Mansur. An incident occurred, where Raja Ahmad accidentally killed his cousin out of rage, simply because the cousin kicked a ball (sepak raga) and knocked the destar (some sort of crown like item but made of cloth, ok that is a very bad description but do forgive me) off his head. Sultan Mansur has banished Raja Ahmad to another state, out of Malacca, and subsequently crowned his younger prince, Sultan Alauddin as his successor. Such drama usually would not escape without future foreseen tragedies, and indeed, many backstabbing and struggle for power happened in decades after the incident.

I will not bore you with further historical lessons, thus I shall just skip to the ending. The queen, Tun Senaja betrayed Sultan Alauddin, forming an unholy alliance with Raja Ahmad to take over the empire. She went to Sultan Alauddin during his mourning period (I am not sure whose death, but apparently someone extremely important to him) and poisoned him through the food the Sultan took in immediately after breaking fast in the month of Ramadhan. It was a painful and bitter sight to have someone being betrayed, especially from someone so close, but the strongest message through this show was very clear: our greatest weakness is through the ones we love. That only shows that we are human. The Queen said these words "You are only human, you are NOT a god", watching the Sultan take his fall and writhe in pain to death.

This was indeed a powerful show, not being overly complicated, and subtle enough for a generally wide audience to understand and appreciate the story-line. The performance was a fusion of mostly traditional dance with a generous mixture of modern dance as well as some live stage theater acting. The dance was beautifully choreographed and professionally executed. There was a sense of good connection to the whole show, because this was a part of the history of Malaysia (or Malaya back in the olden days) and seeing it being played out in life, right before our eyes, was a great experience. The performers were mostly from DBKL group of dancers and performers, and I must say they did a top notch stage performance, kudos to them all.

A Queen's vendetta

A suffering and dying friend.

The start of mourning.

The devil approaches.

The poison.

The betrayal

The only surprise I had was that there were no photographers around !! It was a public event, and KL Festival has been heavily advertised. It was very strange, because such stage performance was a great photography opportunity, where did all the photographers (or more appropriately photographers-wannabe) go? The stage lighting was nicely done, though it did pose a lot of challenge in terms of uneven and constantly changing lighting. I would love to go to such shows again, but they usually would not come cheap. Moreover, usually photography without media passes would not be allowed, and those organizers would do mean things to you if you sneak your camera in (confiscate your memory card, etc). Considering the previous statement, this show was a free event, and I did not see many local Malaysian photographers appreciating such opportunity to express our love for local arts and history. What a shame, really.

The Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 ED is growing closer to me, and I am loving what it can do more and more. I cannot wait for the next weekend again for another shutter therapy session.


  1. Awesome stuff :D Great photos and the performers look like they did an amazing job. Quite strange there weren't any photographers around though :/

  2. Thanks Jeremiah !
    I know, stuff iike this is usually not free !!

  3. I didnt know you can take shots in the theater... or maybe im confusing it with the cinema. Hmm. Anyway! Nice shots! Truly! You captured the emotions, and nice background. what's more dramatic than red? wow...

  4. thanks coffee girl, usually photography is not allowed but this was an exception, since its free and part of kl festival, a tourism initiative!! whats better than free publicity right?

  5. sultan Alauddin8/02/2011 01:55:00 PM

    Robin, thanks for the great Photos and review

  6. Wow, the Sultan is back from the dead after so many centuries !!
    Kidding, it was my pleasure to share what I can.

  7. Well, perhaps a late reaction, but I bought myself eventually this 50-200mm jewel and Googled some information... which brought me here!
    What stunning images are these (and then again I am only looking at downsized versions).
    Again: Wow!

  8. ... and the pictures with all red light proof to me the superb quality of the E-5 sensor.