Amid tough demands from their academic studies, UTP Performing Arts Group's (UPAG) dancers keep dancing through with flying colors. Whether it's an elegant gala event or an international competition, UPAG's dazzling choreography never ceases to soar through the crowd.
For years since its inception in 2002, UPAG choreographs various types of Malaysian dances, from traditional to ethnical and modern dances gracefully performed by future Malaysian engineers and technologists.
Its lead choreographer and first advisor, Mohd Nordin Abdolatip says that the group is not just about staging dance performances, but more importantly, it is ensuring that culturally emblematic traditional Malaysian dances don't get lost in translation.
“UPAG is a fixture at almost all of UTP's official ceremonies. It is the busiest club at the university. Currently we have over 35 members who practice everyday," shares Nordin.
In 2006, under the baton of UTP's former head talent enrichment department, the group's name was changed from Gemalai Sari to UPAG.
This served as a reset and helped light up a new aspiration—to become a performing art pioneer and catalyst to inspire not only UTP students, but also students from other institutions and the public to appreciate Malaysia's finest arts, cultures and heritage.
In addition, the group has also spawned the birth of a number of dance choreographers. For example, a couple of former alumni are making a living out of dancing. Nordin says, “Apart from dancing, group members are also developing their skills as choreographers."
To illustrate, alumni, Iskandar Mahbob, a former senior drilling engineer, quit PETRONAS to become a Zumba fitness trainer full time in Myanmar.
Among local universities, UPAG is a household name in the scene. By the sheer volume of dance performances the group stages, the group uses the opportunity to hone its members' self-esteem.
Hazim Irsyad Zaini, UPAG's dance trainer and second advisor who has been involved with the club since 2009 says, “Here, we develop our students' confidence level, posture and expression on stage."
Hazim says, “By working in a group, we develop our students' ability to work with others. When members gain experience under their belt, in turn, they will be tasked to train others. In part, this teaches them leadership and humility."
“We are lucky because we get choreographers who don't just teach dance, but they are very close to academics. Hence, we have an academic approach to performing arts here," adds Hazim.
According to Hazim, many who have picked up dancing, now, appreciate traditional arts more. They start to appreciate the story behind traditional cultures.
Meanwhile, UPAG president, Aina Farihah Mohd Tarmizee, 22, a Business Information System student says, “It takes years to master the physically demanding choreography. This is my fourth year with the group and we are all emotionally programmed to move to the music."
Over the years, she says, she has grown a lot as a person. From an introvert, now, she admits she is much more optimistic. She says, “Dance can be great, empowering and motivating. It feels like you are engaged in a joyful, collaborate party."
“This is a place where you feel accepted. For a lot of us, we spend our day time with our classmates. But at night, dancing, we take off our masks and fully enjoy ourselves. For most of us, we don't just get dance lessons. When we learn dances from different cultures, we learn what these dance movements, motions and customs really mean. In Malay dances for example, It teaches us manners and how to carry ourselves. It reflects the true allure of Malay women," enthuses Aina.
Throughout all the years of hard work and the passion towards arts and cultures, UPAG has fruitfully established a group of talented and reputable dancers.
To date, UPAG has accomplished many achievements in dance competitions locally and abroad. The group's most significant involvements include Malaysian Night at Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom, 'A Taste of Malaysian Culture' at Nottingham Arts Theatre, United Kingdom, Cheonan World Dance Festival at Cheonan, South Korea, Malaysia - Taiwan Cultural Exchange Programme at Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, Silk Road Music Festival at Xi'An, China as well as Surin International Cultural Exchange in Surin, Thailand.
Indeed, UPAG is another prime example of UTP's profound career connected learning and industry collaboration. From the work we do, we foster long-term relationships with our global social-impact partners to prepare our students, people and researchers as global citizens.
As a leading university in engineering, science and technology, our graduates are driven to exceed their professional objectives and contribute towards overcoming capability deficit across all sectors and industries.