Get to know Tagaps Dance Theatre Dancers!



Congratulations, Tagaps Dance Theatre for winning the Dance World Cup competition held in Barcelona from 22 to 30 June this year. We spent a great afternoon getting to know our talented Sabahans. Let’s meet Mohd Azizan Daniel bin Abdullah, Nurasilah Adibah, Shahzriena binti Mat Shel, and Jesper Evans Dumalin.


Please meet:


Why did you get into dancing?

NA: I started dancing since I was 9 years old. I always had an interest in dancing and I believe this career has its own future. Besides punctuality, it can help in efficiency, especially the focus to learn the dance steps. It is similar to implementing the discipline academically as well.

JD: Dancing can help to improve my discipline. Through dancing, I learned about responsibility and priority, not just simply for dancing. I only started dancing since eight months ago.


How has dance inspired you?

NA: One of my teachers brought me to join dancing club in my primary school in SK Stella Maris. The teacher suggested me to enter the cultural group and join the junior group. I started with traditional folklore dance. It inspired me along the way.

JD: At first, I thought that dancing is just for fun and enjoyment. But when I started watching dance videos, it actually inspired me because it makes me feel amazed seeing how they do the dance moves and I also want to learn so badly.

SS: It’s definitely an influence from my cousin. She started to dance until she reached to the top! Then, she brought me to the internationals. And that experience inspired me to dance.


What was your most challenging dance routine?

NA: Solo. It is the hardest because you have to dance alone on an international stage. I feel nervous whenever I’m dancing alone. Also, it was hard to pair me up because all the dancers are taller than me.

JD: For me, it’s the Trio Hip Hop because I’m still a new dancer. It is challenging for me as I just learned the dance and have to handle five categories in the competition. Although it is the most difficult dance routine for me, it is also my favourite dance as it is the most challenging one for me.

SS: Duet. The Duet dance routine is my first contemporary and I have never done it before. Due to last minute arrangements, I only had two weeks to learn this dance.


Why do you like traditional dancing?

NA: Because we must learn about our own culture so that we can bring it out to international level and teach other people about it. We must appreciate and share the knowledge for what we have.

JD: I started from traditional dances because traditional dance has the most exposure towards them compared to other dances.

SS: We are from different races so each person has knowledge about their culture.

What is something that keeps you strong when things get difficult?

NA: My friends within the Tagaps Dance Theatre and other friends. They always give me motivation and words of encouragement.

JD: Think positively. Simple.

SS: Our choreographer, Abang Azizan. He always gives motivation and encouragement to us. He always tell us “don’t think too much, you should think that you can do it” when there’s doubts.


What was your reaction and your feelings when you won?

NA: I felt shocked. I didn’t expect us to win because other contestants had more ability than us. There were about 30 contestants all together. For you to think you can reach Top 3 is quite impossible. Then for our second winning, we were even happier! Our friends who didn’t make it to Spain felt proud too!

JD: Happy, excited, and I felt proud to hear our national anthem ‘Negaraku’ played on the international stage during prize giving presentation.


Any advice for new dancers?

NA: Just try it, don’t feel shy. Finding a platform is important, such as joining competitions that can prove that you can do it. Just join it because you’ll never know you might have the chance to win.

JD: Where there’s a will there’s a way. If you want to do it, just go for it. Walk the talk.


What are your goals as a dancer from Sabah?

NA: I want to join ‘So You Think You Can Dance’!

JD: My actual goal is to go to international level and I have now reached that goal. My next goal is to target more international competitions. Maybe another chance at the Dance World Cup next year? It’s our duty to share more Sabah’s dances to the world!

SS: Learn choreographies from Abang Azizan. Be a choreographer for all kind of dances. I want to learn something new from what I’ve learned before.


Mohd Azizan Daniel bin Abdullah, 24

Choreographer and Co-Founder of Tagap Dance Theatre

Dance World Cup 2011, Paris
Junior Group National – Gold medal
Dance World Cup 2012, Austria
Senior Group National – Gold medal
Dance World Cup 2013,  London
Senior Solo National – Gold medal
Senior Solo Modern – Bronze medal
Dance World Cup 2015, Romania
Senior Solo Modern – Bronze medal
Senior Solo National – Gold medal
Dance World Cup 2017, Germany
Senior Solo Modern – Silver medal


What inspires you to dance? What should the viewer take away, interpretation or a message you wish to convey?
It depends on the dance itself –  especially for national and folklore dance, it has its own story. I like dancing through a story. Different dance styles would mean interpreting a different story that I will try to interpret.


What was your previous job?
I worked in Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara (Sabah) as a cultural dancer before I co-founded Tagap Dance Theater, together with my friend Adhli Fadlullah Saadilah in 2008.


Have you always been interested in traditional dances?
Yes. Any kind of dances (national and folklore dances) of any country.


How did you find out about this competition in Spain?
It started since 2011. I joined the Dance World Cup as a dancer and we won Gold medal. Up to this day, I joined the competition six times and won a total of 6 Gold, 3 Silver and 2 Bronze. This year I’m just a choreographer. I stopped dancing in the international level. Last year as I wanted to focus on domestic level.


Why do you like to dance traditional dancing?

I’m very proud of our culture; we have over 136 ethnic groups not including the sub-ethnics. We are getting older; all the notable choreographers passed down their knowledge to us and we have the responsibility to share it to the world.

Sabah has her own niche area which is the culture and ethnic, and this is something that people want to see when we go abroad. Foreigners love our culture. I remember performing the Murut dance in London, and a lot of people approached me to find out more about the Murut culture.  

I like to exchange cultures with people. We educate each other. I believe this is important because as we age, the younger generation might not be keen or interested to know about our culture. For me, we have to develop their interest young and keep producing various dance for the many ethnics we have here in Sabah. There are still a lot more to discover! From all the research that I’ve done, there are quite a few interesting stories that are worth exploring. Some locals have no platforms to tell their stories to, so, it is my duty to bring out the culture through traditional dance.


Do you know anything about the history of each traditional dance? Like who started it? When? Where? What influenced them?

I’ve learned about the Sabah ethnics and culture when I was in JKKN Sabah. There, I also did my own research on all the dances, costumes, folklore, and more. I take about three weeks to learn about a specific culture, live with them to learn about their dances, to know the do’s and don’ts about the culture, which steps can be changed and cannot be changed. After that, I will compile everything into one piece and will send it to JKKN or Lembaga Kebudayaan.

A synopsis of a dance will be taught to our dancers in Tagaps so that they will understand the synopsis and they will get into the mood.


How do you train your students?

We train almost every day, from 3:00 pm until about 9:00 pm. Some of them choose to stay back until 11:00 pm making sure everything is clear today for tomorrow’s session. However, this schedule is only for competition. On normal days, dancers only practice for two hours per day, from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm, except on weekends.


What are some little known facts about yourself you would want others to know about?

I am a perfectionist when it comes to dancing. I want everything to be perfect.


What is something that keeps you strong when things get difficult?

For me, it’s my friends. Tagaps Dance Theatre is like a family. They are the people that I need when there are problems. We sit together and try to overcome the issue slowly without thinking of its negativity. If there is something that we can’t hold any longer, we will try to throw or remove it out a bit by bit. Just like any other problem solving methods, we try to think and discuss on the pros and cons before making a decision. This also includes deciding on dance steps, ideas, and choreographies.

Sometimes, it is the students that gave me strength. I got some ideas popped up while I observing they rest, play, and revising steps.


If you could give advice for aspiring dancers, what did you discover about the industry that you would want others to know about?

Choose freedom. Do whatever you want and you create whatever dance you want. Don’t be afraid to try different genre too like HipHop, contemporary or fusion. Learn everything including ballet, if there is someone to teach; even if it’s hard.

We must show our ethnic culture to the world because we are rich with diversity and we have our own untold story, legend, and folklore.


What was the most memorable experience you had while going to Dance World Cup 2018?

Cooking for everyone and… we almost didn’t make it to the competition because we almost missed a few flights from KL to Singapore, Zurich to Barcelona. This is my first time as a choreographer that brought over 20 students overseas. Most flights had different schedule until we didn’t realised that we almost missed the flights. Luckily the flight from Zurich to Barcelona was delayed and the gap was only an hour, so we ran!

From KL to Singapore, we had to open our luggage because we brought food from KK. Well, it’s a struggle to catch up with time. We didn’t sleep well nor shower for 2 days, staying inside the plane for 17 hours. And, the competition started in 2 days after arriving in Sitges, Spain..


What are your goals as a dancer from Sabah?

My goal is to make Tagaps Dance Theatre not just a dance group, but to be one of the established academies where we can teach and nurture all the students, to create a path for them in life. I mean, it is the best time to develop an interest from young and Tagaps Dance Theatre is always open to all!


Tagaps Dance World Cup 2018 Achievements

Gold Medals

  • Children Solo National – ‘Dang Bandang’: Nurasilah Adibah
  • Children Duet/Trio National – ‘Japin (Stadansa)’
  • Children Small Group National – ‘Pirid (Stadansa)’
  • Junior Duet/Trio National – ‘Ongkowiau’: Jesper Evens Dumalin, Macx Douglas & Mohd Ikhwan Mohd Imran


Silver Medals

  • Junior Solo National – ‘Huguan Siou’: Mohd Ikhwan
  • Junior Small Group National – ‘Mengalap’: Nurasilah Adibah, Vica Asherah, Mohd Ikhwan Mohd Imran, Jesper Evans Dumalin, Macx Douglas, Alfarhan Bin Jeffrin, Shahzriena Binti Mat Shel, Jordan Anthony & Ivy Michelle Jerry


Bronze Medals

  • Senior Small Group Hip Hop – ‘Chi Town’: Nurasilah Adibah, Vica Asherah, Mohd Ikhwan Mohd Imran, Jesper Evans Dumalin, Macx Douglas, Alfarhan Bin Jeffrin, Shahzriena Binti Mat Shel & Muhammad Taufiq


Top 10

  • Senior Solo Hip Hop – ‘Stickman’: Muhammad Taufiq
  • Junior Duet Modern – ‘Dissolved’: Shahzriena Binti Mat Shel & Alfarhan Bin Jefrin
  • Junior Duet Hip Hop – ‘Saturn’: Jesper Evens Dumalin, Macx Douglas & Mohd Ikhwan Mohd Imran


  • Children Solo National – ‘Tingkayuh: Muhammad Fakhrul Afif (Tatih Stella Maris)




  • Most Outstanding Solo National: Nurasilah Adibah





Catch them in Braga, Portugal in 2019!