Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gerard Mosterd and Sumber Cipta

I am in Indonesia now for 4 weeks before a workshop on Asian avant-gardes at NUS in Singapore. I spent two days in Jakarta before going off to Cirebon. The main focus of my time in Jakarta was to use two libraries , Perpustakaan Nasional and Pusat Sastra HB Jassin, to collect some sources on 1940s theatre for my book-in-progress on modernity and the performing arts of Indonesia. I wasn't able to access the sources I needed from Perpustakaan Nasional - the books are on the shelves, but are not catalogued and so inaccessible - while the folk at HB Jassin were courteous and efficient, and even pointed me to sources not on my list that they thought relevant to my research. In addition, I also made a visit to the head office of Asosiasi Tradisi Lisan to discuss future collaborations with the association's head Ibu Pudentia, visited the bookstore at TIM, paid a short visit to the Museum Nasional with my daughter Hannah (it closed early for Ramadhan so we couldn't get into the galleries, but had a good look at the sculptures on permanent display) and spent an evening together with choreographer and producer Gerard Mosterd, who is in the process of creating a new dance piece for Sumber Cipta, Indonesia's most famous ballet company.

Gerard is Dutch of Indonesian descent and has extensive experience as a dancer and choreographer in the European contemporary dance world. His focus in recent years with his production company Kantor Pos has been in European-Asian exchanges - work which has involved him collaborating with some of Indonesia's best known tradition-based and modern artists. He has worked with Sumber Cipta a number of times over the last decade or so, teaching classes and such. The piece he is making now will be part of a triple bill by Sumber Cipta to be presented at the Jakarta dance festival in September. Gerard was supposed to wrap up his work on the piece in July but has decided to stay on through August as rehearsals have not been as smooth as he has hoped due mostly to absences. 

The piece he is creating (I am not sure if it has a title already) is an exploration of freedom - encouraging the dancers to move away from the rigid postures and fixed moves that are customary in Indonesia, whether in ballet or in traditional dance. He is working against rather than with the grain of the music he has selected (mostly Bach, which he says is more accessible). Behind the piece is a concern for the politics of expression, and recent court cases that have stifled freedom of speech (particularly a case regarding an atheist blogger). 

At the rehearsal I attended on 30 July at Sumber Cipta's dance studio in south Jakarta, Gerard spoke with his dancers in English. But he struck me as very much a participant in the local dance scene - not a curious outsider, but someone involved in an intimate way with both the company and the larger dance world it is situated in. After watching the rehearsal, he also invited me to offer feedback to him and the company- thus bringing me into the process as well. 

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