Sun, 15 Jun 2003

Young dancers learning to let themselves go for `naughty' edge

Like most of the competitors at the Indonesia Dancesport Championship 2003, 15-year-old dancers Denis Kosasih and Lucia Adelaide Santosa are on the upward slope of a steep learning curve.

In their first championship Denis and Lucia, two of the youngest competitors in the field of 24 couples, made it to the final of the beginners waltz competition at the Jakarta Convention Center last Saturday night.

Although they have danced Latin together for five years, the young pair from Yogyakarta started dancing waltz less than a year ago. They did well as they were competing against a field that has significantly improved since last year, said their coach Ita Dyan Dwinita W.

Although dancesport, less formally known as ballroom dancing, is relatively limited in its popularity, it is quickly gaining recognition, including every Sunday night on TVRI's Dansa Yo Dansa.

The graceful and physically demanding competition has recently made significant strides worldwide to gain respect and recognition as a sport rather than just an art form.

After nine years of lobbying from the International Dancesport Federation (IDSF), in 1997 the International Olympic Committee recognized ballroom dancing as a sport. At the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, dancesport debuted as a exhibition event.

With the sport's growing popularity in Asia, the IDSF hopes that China will include ballroom dancing in some form at the 2008 Olympics.

In the meantime the Indonesian National Sports Council is working with the Indonesian Dancesport Organization to put on events such as this championship to improve the caliber of Indonesian athletes.

In dancesport, competitors compete in two disciplines: standard ballroom (waltz, tango, slow foxtrot, quickstep and Viennese waltz) and Latin (cha-cha, rumba, sumba, jive and paso doble).

At the recent championships, competitors were divided into senior (45 years and over), beginners, novice, preamateur and amateur.

This year's event featured guest judging and two performances by 1999 World Dancesport champions Matthew and Nicole Cutler, from England and South Africa respectively.

The Cutlers have traveled and competed worldwide for over 10 years and Matthew Cutler said that he has been impressed by the sports growth in Asia.

"Compared to some of the other countries in Asia, this is quite a new country for this sport, so it is still growing," Matthew Cutler said.

Indonesia's opportunity for international success lies in the grooming of its young athletes and this event plays an important role in their development.

They can learn a lot here, competing and watching, and the competition reinforces what they have been taught but from a new angle, said Ita, who together with her husband, coached 22 couples competing in the event.

"What I have been really watching is the expression on the dancers' faces," said Lucia.

Now that they see how important it is to express their feelings when dancing, "it is what they really need to work on," said Ita.

"For me it's the hardest part of dancing," Lucia noted.

In fact, part of the problem for the couple is that they are quiet people, said Ita.

"I have told them that they must express their own personality, and step by step they have begun to be a little bit more naughty," Ita said laughing.

"It's especially important for him," she said, looking over at Denis.

"It's difficult for them, their parents want them to be polite, it's Asian and very Javanese. But dancing, he must be himself and show his own personality, he must be more expressive" she said.

"In fact his true personality is a little naughty, but there is pressure for him not to show it."

"It's very difficult to change your face to become a naughty person, because I am a kind person," said Denis. Judges look for confidence, spirit, and energy coming from within the dancers, said Ita. So dancing requires that they build this confidence to express their true emotion.

"We have to show the true feelings of ourselves. We should not be nervous, we should be happy with the music and the dance. We have to put our own self in the dance so that the dance becomes alive," said Lucia.

Matthew Cutler started dancing at the age of eight and said that dancing has an important positive impact on young people.

"Being a teenager is quite a difficult time anyway, and developing confidence is so important during this period. Dance can play an important role in this," said Cutler.

Besides confidence, success in dance sport requires finding the right partnership, said Ita.

"A couple must have one durian and one kedondong (a plum-like fruit)."

"They make a great pair," said Ita, "because she is sweet and gentle on the outside and hard inside like a kedondong, but he is hard on the outside but sweet on the inside like a durian."

-- Jock Paul