Serampang Dua Belas Ala Singapura: Medan’s Legacy in Singapore Malay Dance History

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Veterans of the Malay dance art world in Singapore have never shied away from
affirming the influence of choreographers from “Medan” who were integral in providing the canons of Malay dance in Singapore. One such dance is called the Serampang Dua Belas which is a structured courtship dance co-choreographed and popularised by a dance Maestro known as Guru Sauti. The version that is practised widely today in Singapore was first introduced by a Chinese Indonesian lady, Liauw Tjoen Yen, in the 1960s and its transmission today has been continued by practitioners and former practitioners from one of Singapore’s oldest arts organisation, Sriwana.

The proliferation of Serampang Dua Belas to many other Malay communities within Indonesia and neighbouring countries in the 1970s, prompted certain Medan elites to subsequently endorse a rigid standardisation of this dance form. Changes to the dance’s music, presentation and floor patterns in Medan has allowed the version that is thriving in Singapore to be regarded as Singapore’s version of Serampang Dua Belas.

I use the historical and contemporary practice of Serampang Dua Belas in Singapore to
problematize (1) the endorsement of this dance repertoire as “Uniquely Singaporean” and (2) to question the contradiction of Malay dance elites’ ongoing relations with Medan practitioners and dependence on their repertoires to facilitate a pan-Malay affinity today.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2018

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