Saturday, May 9, 2009


'Don't mock me, that's how kolaborasi [mixed media collaborations] go,' said Fitri Setyaningsih, one of the four performers in a fashion-dance performance to a fellow dancer from the audience after the show.

The occasion was a dance performance sponsored by the French cultural institute LIP at the upmarket Sasanti Restaurant (neary Yogyakarta's Hyatt Hotel) on 8 May. Three dancers Nita Azhar (from France), Fitri Setyaningsih (an ISI Surakarta-trained dancer who lives in Yogya) and Emily White (an American studying dance at ISI Yogyakarta) danced around Sasanti's garden in the high fashion of the Spring 2009 Paris season. Choreography (such as it existed) was by Marie Barbottin and dresses by Marie Labarelle. Tickets, though free, were very limited (available for one day only at LIP a week before the event - one ticket per person), and the audience was a combination of Yogya's glitterati, expats and artists.

The dance, which featured also Didik Nini Thowok as a 'guest artist' (appearing at the start and end in a noh mask and a long gown), was vague and spontaneous, with little in the way of technique, drama, or meaning. Fitri explained before the show that the concept behind the dance was a banyan tree with its long roots. What we saw instead was a series of costume changes. A dancer climbs a tree. Another dancer splashes around in a pond. A dancer imitates a bird. The semi-improvised movement was accompanied by rather bland neo-ethnic music improvised by the musical trio Enola & Improvasi. Marie Le Sourd, LIP's director, explained that this was the result of a 5 day workshop and was only 'work in progress'. But the question is progress to where?

My sense is that most of us at Sasanti were present for the occasion - not the performance. It was a meet and greet sort of event - and there certainly were a lot of attractive, rich, interesting and talented people present. Mas Didik's photographer explained that one of the major purposes was to get a video of Mas Didik performing in noh style to post on youtube. 11 videos on the Didik channel and counting....

Apparently the two Marie-s have created like dance-fashion events in France in the past. More rehearsal, better lighting and a lot more dancers and a faster pace might have helped.

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