Colloquium: Professor Mohd Anis Md Nor

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 4:15pm
Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003)


Mohd Anis Md Nor is Professor of Ethnochoreology and Ethnomusicology at the Cultural Centre (School of Performing Arts), University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He earned his B.A. with Honors from the University of Malaya, M.A. (Dance Ethnology) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and PhD. (Southeast Asia Studies and Musicology) from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Professor Anis has pioneered the study of Zapin dance and music in Southeast Asia and has published widely on the topic. Although his foremost research area deals with Malay dance and music in Southeast Asia, his current studies are on the interfacing of dance traditions among the Malayo-Polynesian societies in Southeast Asia and Polynesia and the making of new traditions through contemporary performances. He is a member of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM); ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology; ICTM Study Group on Performing Arts of Southeast Asia; President of World Dance Alliance ­ Asia Pacific (WDA-AP); National Advisor to MyDance (World Dance Alliance-Asia Pacific Malaysia Chapter); and Artist-in-Residence/Consultant to the Johor Heritage Foundation. He was appointed as the Advisory Committee of the Islamic World Arts Initiative (IWAI) supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art for the period of 2004-2005. Professor Anis is the curator for the Zapin International Dance Festival and the International Malay Performing Arts for the State Government of Johor in Malaysia. He was the 2007 William Allan Neilson Distinguish Professor of Music, Dance and Theatre at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

One of the many Sufi practices, which utilize dhikr (recitation of the divine names or litanies) that is muted by non-verbal inward recitations, could be observed in the Zapin dance and music in the coastal areas of maritime Southeast Asia.  Performed by Zapin dancers who are followers of Tariqat or ‘way’ of the sharia’at, which literally means “the road to the watering place,” dancing the silent dhikr symbolizes the broad way in which the performer-practitioners find way to travel and seek God. The accompaniment of music and the physical movement of performing a structured movement system portray ephemeral permeation of Islamic aesthetics and Malay artistic conventions while negotiating the traditional mode of temporality that is diachronically and synchronically linear in form, time and space. This temporality that is curled from the past remains important in the present as the performers negotiate their togetherness as Sufis and practitioners of religious and cultural practices that are embedded in mute dhikr, which plays an important role in sustaining Malay-Islamic traditional performance practices that is essential in seeking the realm of the altered other. The paper "Negotiating Temporality: Sufistic Zapin in Maritime Southeast Asia" will discuss how dichotomies of the past and the present are negotiated within the traditional mode of temporality that progresses lineally through the procession of the past (diachronic), present (extant and synchronic) and future (impending) through the silent dhikr in the Zapin dance of Southeast Asia.

This event is part of Muslim Women's Voices at Wesleyan