Category archives: Cultural

An Evening with Petra Dancers

Tabi basa & greetings family & friends,

How was your day? Today I want to talk about dance in Sarawak. Throughout the history of Sarawak, dance is one of the important aspect of its cultural development, where most of the indigenous peoples has their own dance, derived from nature. For example, Rejang / Langgi for Bidayuh peoples are inspired by the movements of eagle in the sky. Ngajat, a warrior dance for Iban people and most of Orang Ulu’s dance is also derived from the graceful movement of hornbill, signifying the close relationship of these peoples with nature. Long time ago, the life of Sarawakian peoples was built in such way that it is in balance with nature, because it was based on preservation of life. For a start, for newcomers, it is good to see them in action at Sarawak Cultural Village at Santubong to know the brief summary of Sarawak’s rich culture.

Pak Bek (fourth from right) and his dancers

I myself had personally involved with dances when I was still in tertiary education, and had a good down-memory-lane whenever I see traditional dancers performing. Yesterday I had a chance to see Petra dancers in action, led by Mr Awang Harabi, or famously known Pak Bek.

Petra Dancers Story

Petra Dancers was founded in 1991, which makes them 28 years old this year. That gave them a lot of experiences especially in the dancing arena of Sarawakian culture. They can dance all kind of traditional dancers of Sarawak peoples, including Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Melanau, Malay, Chinese or even Indian people’s dances. They one they performed yesterday was Iban’s Ngajat, Orang Ulu’s Kanjet Ngeleput, Bidayuh’s Rejang Beuh, Malay’s Joget Melati, and finally a group dance.

In terms of dancing experiences, they have performed all around the nation, including Brunei and have been representing Sarawak in the international level. They have a different kind of dancers category as well, with the one that we had yesterday was the junior to give them more exposure. For more challenging events, the seniors will go and perform.

In total, they have around 40 active members, with 3 assistant leader, namely Suharto, Kartini and Roberto. For big events, they will collaborate with dance groups from all around Malaysia, or Sarawak to make it bigger due to limitation of manpower and trainers. E.g. during Sarawak Day celebration, where there is a lot of dancers required.

They have their own studio at Wisma Ung Hwa Geok, Lot 418, Tingkat 1, Jalan Kulas Utara Dua, 93400 Kuching, which is the studio that they build at their own initiative without government support as they also runs bridal company, under Petra Bridal.

The current challenge that they face include the other group of dancers because customer tends to find a cheap but with quality dancers. It is a perpetual challenge, but with their reputation, they have little difficulty in that.

Pak Bek also emphasises on the well-being of the dancers, where for every performance, they will be covered their logistics, food and payment. Every week there is a performance, but it will be paid lump sum the end of the month.

Training schedule per week is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 8.30 – 10.30pm, 2 hours per day. That is the commitment required from every dancers in Petra dancers.

Pak Bek hopes to maintain cultural diversity through their works and wishes that every dancers has the discipline to remain focused so that they can achieve whatever they want, be it winning an international award or just to be a good dancer.  

Should anyone interested to join them, you may call 0168689226 to enlist yourself and dance.

Gear used: Leica M Monochrom and Noctilux 50.

Your Tukang Rantek,
Claudius Weson

Note: Claudius Weson is a tukang rantek (photographer) based in Miri, mainly doing portraiture (indoor / studio / outdoor photoshoot), weddings and event photography.

© Claudius Weson Photography (2019). All rights reserved.

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