How You Can End-up Onstage at Pasar Seni
By: Iza Sanchez
It was my last night in Kuala Lumpur but I didn’t want to end the day so I kept on wandering aimlessly around the Central Market and Kasturi walk in Pasar Seni. Although, I’ve seen everything there was to see in the area, there would always be a little something in some shop that would catch my attention. Like most tourists, I couldn’t resist not buying some kind of trinket with a little “I love Kuala Lumpur” on it. So I grabbed a few keychains and shirts until the workers began throwing sheets over their merchandise.
Like Hong Kong’s Mong Kok and Sydney’s Paddy’s market, the Central Market was Kuala Lumpur’s souvenir haven. The complex is lined with all kinds of shops that sell anything from ethnic wood sculptures, hijab (Muslim women headdress), knitted bags, woven mats, clothing, to hand-painted landscapes.
The information desk at the entrance of the complex advertised a cultural show that ran daily at 9:00 pm in front of the building. But, by closing time there didn’t seem to be any activity outside. No sign of any crew setting-up the stage, no chairs, no crowds. I asked the security officer if the program was cancelled. But, he assured me that there will be a show.
I wait at a coffee shop nearby and some 30 minutes later I hear the music. The show had just begun. I walked back to the area and there onstage were the stars of Pasar Seni. Three ladies in bright lavender dresses swayed to lively Malaysian music. A few minutes into the performance three male dancers in equally colorful costumes joined them and the three pairs danced to what I can only assume was the Malaysian version of the salsa.
The show goes on with the women’s group then the men’s group alternately taking the stage. Then the three pairs would dance together on stage. Although, it was a well choreographed performance, there were only about 1 to 15 of us in the audience. I guessed the locals of Pasar Seni have probably seen the show a hundred times and there weren’t many tourists around at that time of day.
So feeling lucky, I clicked away in my front row seat while trying my skills at stage photography. Halfway, through the show the three women walked towards the audience and picked a random person of their choice. One of them approaches me – caught off guard I take her hand and she guides me to the stage.
Alongside the others, I spent a few minutes following their lead, “right foot side, front, tap, tap, left foot, side, sway, kick right,” I desperately try to follow and ignore the audience in front of us. I endure ten minutes more of “sway, sway, wave your hand to the side, tap, tap, tap” then it was over.
If I recall correctly the last time I danced on a stage was back in elementary. I have managed to evade those events through high school and college and here I was in the busy district of Pasar Seni dancing to strange Malaysian music in front of a random audience. It was awkward though surprisingly fun and something that I will keep in my memory bank of unexpected, uh-oh moments on the road.
Posing with the dancers of Pasar Seni
I loved the smiles that never left the dancers’ faces throughout the show. They gave us a few more energized performances which reminded of a scene in Aladdin where he parades into town with his entourage of dancers and bands. I was also impressed at how quickly they changed costumes in a stage so open, I wondered where the dressing area was. The show ran for 30 minutes and in the end the organizers invited the audience to pose with the dancers. Someone took my picture with the dancers. I thanked them and headed back to the backpacker inn. It was a good way to end my trip in Kuala Lumpur.
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