ZAPIN is a popular Malay dance form, which is believed to have been introduced to Malaya by Middle Eastern missionaries in the 15th century. There are numerous variations of zapin, which is especially popular in the southern and central states of the peninsula. In celebration of this art form, the dance Faculty of Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) is organising Main Zapin 2017, a 90-minute show taking place this weekend. "This is our fifth time restaging this show," says Mohd Yunus Ismail, dean of the dance faculty at Aswara, and the artistic director of Main Zapin 2017. Main Zapin was first performed in 2010. All four previous shows were played to a full house, and Aswara is hoping to repeat the feat this year. Each time the show has been restaged, a new repertoire would be added. This time around, Aswara is working with some schools that teach zapin, and will include the students in their dance show. Four zapin dance masters from Johor will be performing, too. "Every traditional dance form will go through some transformation," says Mohd Seth Hamzah, the Aswara deputy dean of the faculty. "In this show, you get to see some of the purest traditional zapin being performed." Seth also points out that zapin is performed differently in each state. "In some states, the dance form is fast paced, while in others, the dance is at a slower pace," he says. "In this show, you will be able to see 14 different types of zapin being performed." Some have accused Aswara of mixing the traditional dance form with contemporary movements, but Yunus denies the allegations. "We teach our students contemporary and abstract dances," he says. "We encourage our students to choreograph their own contemporary and abstract pieces, and most of them will get inspiration from the traditional dance roots. "There are some purists who prefer that Aswara just stick to traditional dance forms, and not teach contemporary and abstract dances. "If you just teach your students traditional dances, then you are not expanding their horizons." Yunus said as a dance school, Aswara wants students to be all rounded. "They should have [both] traditional and modern dance skills." His view is echoed by Aswara lecturer Norsafini Jafar, who is also the choreographer for Main Zapin 2017. "If you say that you are a dance student from Aswara, people will look at you highly and are eager to hire you," she says. "In fact some of our students were accepted in international dance schools, even [earning] scholarships. "This [is] because we have a strong syllabus that covers all aspects of dance." Yunus also explains that dance could be used to create unity among different races. "In Aswara, we encourage our students to learn dances from different cultures. "For example, you can see Malay students learning Indian dances, and Chinese students learning Malay dance forms, and vice versa." He believes that this will indirectly teach students to respect each other's culture. Main Zapin 2017 will be staged at Panggung Anniversari, Taman Botani Perdana, Jalan Cenderawasih, Kuala Lumpur from Friday to Sunday. For more, visit Aswara's website.