Mak Yong

The Mak Yong is a dance drama, a comprehensive theatre performance combining dance, opera, drama and comedy.

The theatre is believed to have originated from Kelantan several centuries ago as a popular court entertainment. It is a unique theater form that perhaps can be likened to the modern musical theatre genre found in western theatre.

The most important dance in Mak Yong performance is Mengadap Rebab dance sequence which now lasts anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes and is performed at the beginning of every performance. It is divided into four sections: namely, sitting, kneeling, squatting, standing and walking. The lead dancer and the supporting dancers must be able to sing the haunting melody.

Except for three men, all the characters in a Mak Yong are played by women. It is the main dancer, called Mak Yong who develops the story which usually about legendary princes and princesses from tales of Old handed down by word of mouth.

The Mak Yong is supported by a cast of 16 performers and backed by a traditional music ensemble consisting of gongs, drums and rebab. Music and melody add colour to the dance. There are always at least 2 ‘clowns’ – the peran who are continuously beaten with a short bamboo cane by the lead actor. Their make-up is very distinct especially around the eyes.

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