Friday, February 6, 2009

Experimentation dansee avec Veronique Delarche et Sudiharto

Just returned from my first real performance event in this trip to Indonesia (discounting the gamelan gadon from Bantul playing in our hotel lobby) - a very pleasant demonstration by French dancer Veronique Delarche and Indonesian dancer Sudiharto at Lembaga Indonesia Francis (LIP), Yogyakarta's French cultural centre. I was invited personally by Marie Le Sourd, the centre's director. The centre has been in existence for 35 years according to Marie, and houses a very pleasant lending library (with DVDs), French language classes and an active cultural programme, as well as a nice cafe.

Marie explained to us that Delarche had come to Indonesia for another project but stayed on for a few weeks in Yogya in order to work togetheer with Sudiharto and deliver some talks on cultural management (with a focus on her experience of managing a French dance company). She had previously worked with other Indonesian dancers, including Martinus Miroto (whom we met briefly before the show) and wanted to spend some time exploring the techniques of contact improvisation.

Marie explained further that this was not a performance per se, but a demonstration of working principles -- something which was reiterated by Delarche in her opening talk.

The event took place in LIP's theater - using both the auditorium space in front of the raked seating area as well as the theatre's proscenium stage - and was attended by a mostly young crowd of SMA and university students.

Delarche and Sudiharto began by offering demonstrations of 3 principles for improvisation developed by Lisa Nelson (wife of Steve Paxton, who developed contact improvisation) involving mirroring and exchange of balance. There was then a long section of some 8 numbers involving degrees of audience participation and a final duet by Delarche and Sudiharto using Nelson's 'Tuning Score' as a structure.

Both of the dancers were strong performers, and showed imagination in the exploration of space - complementing each other nicely and clearly at home with each other's bodies and movement proclivities. There was little in the way of drama or tension, but much to - and -froing in changing musical tracks. Humour was promised for one of the improvisations but not delivered - and overall the event felt formalistic rather than truly experimental.

Most interesting to me were the moments that called for audience improvisation. Delarche structured this by handing out numbered tickets beforehand and asking us to come to the stage when our number was called. Ten tickets numbered '1' were handed out for the first audience participation improv - but only one person descended to the stage, a Dutch woman with a 4 year child. She is is doing a 2 month stint teaching at UGM.

The ice broken, audience members became more enthusiastic. Though not without some problems in translation. (Delarche spoke in English with her words translated - a double translation in effect as her English was sometimes hard to follow.) Asked to do one 'action', some of the audience participants kept improvising away. (And were mildly castigated by Delarche for this.) One young audience participant, asked to improvise together with Delarche and Sudiharto with a chair, used this as a moment for histrionic display - pouting and posing like a runway model - which got big applause from her friends in the audience. Others went into 'teater' mode - very bold young man one used a handbag as a kind of mask.

What I found fascinating was that although this was a free dance concert which (I assume) was attended by many dancers, none of the audience members showed the poise and grace and balance and control I normally associate with trained Javanese dance bodies. Some probably study Javanese dance but this did not show in the ways they presented themselves in public.

It makes me think about the relation of dance and the world, and how different the dance culture of Yogya now is compared to the seminal moment of 1918 when Krido Bekso Wiromo was founded. Then one could assume that many if not most Javanese elites would deport themselves in a particular way. This assumption can no longer be made.

The event lasted longer than expected -- my daughter Hannah fell asleep a number of times and I also found myself nodding off a couple of times. But it had a friendly feel to it, and I hope to attend further events at LIP in the future....

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