|Javanese dancers educate in Shiperd Lounge
By S. Roy
Shipherd Lounge in Asia House was completely packed last Friday evening, with
students sitting in a semi-circle around the large room. They were all waiting excitedly for the
Javanese dance duo presented in joint programming by the Shansi Memorial and Asian American Alliance.
Java is one of the main islands of the archipelago nation, Indonesia, which
has a rich history of arts, culture, music and dance.
Mya Gosling, the Liason of the Shansi Student Committee, welcomed the audience
and introduced Djoko Moerdiyanto, Shansi Visiting Scholar from Gadja Mada University in Indonesia.
Professor Moerdiyanto provided a brief history of a vast culture. He informed the audience that
the dance form they were about to see is one of the two formal dances of Indonesia known as Surakata.
The Surakata is traditionally a royal court dance.
Moerdiyanto went on to explain the three dances. The first was an introductory
dance that invites the audience into the performance. The second was a more dynamic dance that
is sometimes compared to martial arts. The last was a romantic dance that is usually performed
at weddings and celebrations.
With that, the beautiful Olivia Retno Widyastuti gracefully entered the room.
She was wrapped in traditional Indonesian batik with a bright sash and traditional jewellery. The
song was sung in Javanese with a traditional Indonesian ensemble. The dance is very delicate with
light foot work and intricate hand and finger movements. Widyastutis eyes followed her fluid
hand gestures. She used the sash a great deal, gently wrapping it around her arm and then throwing
it off again. The butterfly-like dance as well as Widyastutis grace mesmerized the audience.
With big strides, decorated by crown-like headgear, an armlet and a batik,
Matheus Wasi Bantolo entered the dance floor. He wore a serious expression and unlike the previous
dance, the warrior dance consisted of definitive movements, long strides and prominent shoulder
movements. The performance came off like a dance drama in which the warrior displayed both his
spear and his bravery.
After ending the dance, Bantolo welcomed the audience. He explained that the
dance he had just performed is the strong male dance.
There are three characters in a Surakata dance: the female character, very
graceful and delicate; the strong male dancer, who is warrior-like and sometimes wears masks; and
lastly, the refined male dancer who is both graceful and strong. Bantolo explained how the footwork
of the three dancers differed: the female character moves around in a bent position, with her feet
not too far apart while the male character dances in an open bent position and the refined dancer
performs in a combination of these two forms.
Bantolo then performed a dance of the refined male, which begins with a meditative
position. The piece had an ambience of peace and calmness similar to the females dance with
its swaying and fluid movements.
The last dance was the romantic dance drama of Prince Komojoyo and Princess
Komoratih. They are considered to be the perfect humans and usually, in a wedding, this dance is
performed to ask for a bride and groom to look as beautiful and handsome as Komoratih and Komojoyo.
Bantolo and Widyastuti changed into royal outfits with crowns and more jewelry for this dance.
They come towards each other, delicately touching hands. The male character in this dance is refined
and thus the piece was very gentle and intricate overall. The dancers were synchronized in their
movements and the sashes again played a large part in the performance. At the end, Bantolo sang
part of the song while he continued his movement.
The audience burst out with a long, appreciative applause as the two finished
their dance. Many of the spectators expressed how lucky they were to experience such a beautiful
dance form this close up.
Bantolo and Widyastuti spoke to many of the students and faculty after the
show. Bantolo explained how the Surakata dance and other Indonesian dances stem out of Hindu culture
and the Bharat Natyam dance form. Many of the basic footwork and mudras, or hand movements, are
similar to that of Bharat Natyam.
Bantolo and Widyastuti, both members of the royal family of dancers of Surakata.
Bantolo is a dancer, choreographer, composer and teacher. He has performed abroad with Indonesian
cultural missions to Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, Japan, and the Netherlands. His dance partner,
Widyastuti is a graduate from the famed Surakata Academy of Indonesian Art. She has also performed
abroad in places such as London and Cambodia. She is currently a member of the dance ensemble at
the Mangkunegaran Palace and the Kasunanan Palace in Surakarta.
The last two weekends have been truly exceptional with respect to classical
dance troupes such as Natya and the Surakata dancers. Through such performances, students and faculty
alike get to experience different cultures and receive an outlet to learn about fascinating art
forms and traditions from around the world.