Monday, June 1, 2009

Revitalising Topeng

The topeng troupe of Mulya Bhakti (Tambi, Sliyeg, Indramayu) performed at Astana Gunung Jati on Friday 29 May 2009 before a set of wayang performances by two dalang from Gegesik for the annual Barikan ritual.
The topeng performance, under the direction of Wangi Indriya, differed from 'normal' topeng on two counts. One is that it was part of a suite of performances by Mulya Bhakti funded by Kelola and Hivas (the anti-AIDS organisation) to revitalise topeng as part of acara desa (mapag sri, unjungan etc), village rituals in the Indramayu, Cirebon and Majalengka area (see Astana does not normally sponsor topeng for Barikan - and it was perceived as a 'hiburan' (light entertainment) by Suganda.
The second was that Wangi brought with her a few dozen topeng students of various ages from a number of different kecamatan in Indramayu who performed rampak-style the various mask dances. Wangi concluded the show herself. This inclusion of students of different abilities, Wangi told me, allowed her topeng students to experience the ambience of village rituals, AND also gave local audiences the chance to see that topeng could be learned by young people. Wangi encouraged accompanying parents to sawer - offer money in the former a shower of coins or bank notes stuck into costumes.
The dancing was of a surprisingly high quality, and Wangi was the attentive teacher, fixing costumes during performances, cueing musicians as necessary, mirroring dance movements, and making minor corrections.
The pendopo outside the royal graveyard of Astana Gunung Jati was packed.

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