Sun, 05 Sep 1999

A feast of national dances ready to be served up

By Helly Minarti

JAKARTA (JP): The national crisis and turmoil have pushed art events to the periphery. An example is the biannual Indonesian Dance Festival, which has experienced disruptions in recent years.

The last festival, the fourth, in 1996 was interrupted by the infamous July 27 violence at the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party in Jakarta.

Performances were canceled after streets to the venues were blocked by the police. The economic crisis forced the 1998 event to be put on hold.

Dance lovers will be relieved to know that the show will go on this year. The dance festival started on Aug. 18 in Surakarta and will end on Sept. 21.

The festival is a series of performances, choreography workshops, artist-in-residence programs and a showcase of young talent. The first part takes place in the Indonesian Academy of Arts (STSI) in Surakarta from Aug. 18 to Sept. 10 when young choreographers -- students, dancers and non-formal choreographer wannabes, both local and international -- have their chance to work on their pieces and show them to the audience on the last day.

"We had to cut down the number of participants in this forum from 21 in 1996 to only 14 due to financial problems," said Sal Murgiyanto, chairman of the festival organizing committee and dean of the dance school at the Jakarta Institute of the Arts (IKJ).

From Sept. 12 to Sept. 21, the event will continue in Jakarta with more dance workshops of professionals, discussions and, finally, the performances. Prior to the festival, Sal has arranged for some of the international dancer-choreographers to be part of residence programs.

"For example, I sent Seongjoo Joh of South Korea to STSI Denpasar to learn the Balinese style from I Wayan Dibya and then to the Sono Sini Studio of Sardono for the same purpose."

A major aspect is the collaboration between Indonesian and guests choreographers. Seongjoo Joh will collaborate with dancers from Kreativitaet Dance Indonesia in Jakarta, led by Farida Oetojo, on a piece titled Second Name of That Woman. Wen Hui of China will do the same thing with dancers of STSI Surakarta for her work Dining with 1999. Kota Yamazaki of Japan will get together with dancers of IKJ to prepare Garden while Howard W. Lark will choreograph Summit with the help from dancers of Kreativitaet Dance Company. The only foreign participant working independently is Sen Hea Ha from Korea.

"Some of them have already met before, some never, which makes us curious to see how they work," said Sal.

Kota Yamazaki is not a new face. "We are familiar with Yamazaki's style since he gave workshops on his previous visits," said Jeffry Andri, one of the young participating choreographers who is an IKJ dropout and now part of the Gumarang Sakti Dance Company.

"But Wen Hui never met anyone from STSI with whom she is now set to collaborate. I have always wanted to invite someone from China, but the paperwork is complicated. I saw her work once and since she migrated to the United States, it is easier to arrange her visit," Sal said.

Predictably, the collaboration will be the focus of the festival. Artistic results will finally be shown on stage -- to be judged under the spotlight -- but beyond this creative agenda lies the issue of multiculturalism.

"That is what this festival is basically all about," commented Sal. "I find it ironic that as Indonesians with rich cultural origins, we are not so smooth in handling our cultural divides. Strange as it may seem, I observe that we do that better with foreigners. So I hope that through cooperation with others (the international choreographers) we will learn how to communicate among ourselves better."

Indonesia is represented by young names like Yudhistira Sjuman and Chendra Effendy, both from Kreativitaet, and senior Sulistyo Tirtokusumo who will feature a classic Javanese piece, Bedoyo Sumirat and his contemporary dance, Krisis (Crisis). A discussion of choreography will also be held. There are five venues -- Graha Bhakti Budaya of Taman Ismail Marzuki, Gedung Kesenian Jakarta and Teater Luwes at IKJ, all in Central Jakarta, and the STSI campus and Taman Budaya Surakarta in Surakarta. Sept. 12 to Sept. 14 will be dedicated to showcasing the finals of the GKJ Awards II 1999 choreography competition.

The Indonesia Dance Festival was first launched in 1992 as a national forum. The following year it allowed international participants. From 1992 to 1994, it was designed as an annual program before being extended to a biannual forum. This year's festival is funded by several sources: the Jakarta Arts Foundation, UNESCO/Ford Foundation and Asian Cultural Council in New York.

"In the future we would love to have more individual funders who will finance small single works like those young choreographers' forum in Surakarta," said Sal.

His other future agenda is to have another side forum in the festival featuring works from children and for them.

The festival is indeed an extended version of the previous forum, Young Choreographers Festival -- a regular program of the Jakarta Arts Council from 1978 through the mid-1980s. It was the start for such prominent names in national dance like Gusmiati Suid and Tom Ibnur. Indonesia Dance Festival alumni have also made a name internationally, including Kurniawan (Jecko) Siompo and Eko Supriyanto. This year's group may also yield some future stars.

For a detailed program brochure and ticket information, contact (021) 315 9105 starting Monday, Sept. 6.