Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have abruptly cancelled a show by a Singapore ballet troupe amid concern that their costumes would be too revealing, a dance group said Thursday.
Bilqis Hijjas, president of Malaysian arts group MyDance Alliance, said performers from the Singapore Dance Theatre were denied visas for the performance scheduled for this weekend due to the “indecency of their costumes.”
Officials with the Information Ministry and a Malaysian government agency that handles performances by foreign artists could not immediately be reached for comment.
But Janek Schergen, artistic director of Singapore Dance Theatre, told AFP he did not know why the performance was cancelled.
“There has been some speculation about the reasons for the cancellation but I really don’t know why (approval) was not given… There can’t be any issue of costume or content because the performance is perfectly respectable,” he said.
Malaysian Islamic groups frequently oppose performances by Western artists whom they accuse of promoting promiscuity and corrupting youths.
In February, authorities banned a concert by American singer Erykah Badu after a photo of her with body art including the Arabic word for “Allah” was published in a Malaysian newspaper.
The Singapore dance group was scheduled to perform a selection of classical ballet works including “The Nutcracker.”
All of the costumes for women included long skirts except for “The Nutcracker”, which was to be performed in ballet’s traditional short tutu and tights, Bilqis said.
Bilqis, whose group promotes dance, called the move “deplorable” and warned it would make Malaysia appear an unreliable host for cultural performances, scaring off foreign arts investors.
She also took authorities to task for inconsistency, noting that ballet performances in tights have been approved many times before, including earlier this year.