Amid graft cases and scandals involving national figures, a century-old tradition from Surakarta, Central Java, has people reminiscing of the ideal leader.
Commemorating its 102nd anniversary, the iconic Javanese classical dance-drama group Wayang Orang Sriwedari is holding a three-day event from July 17 to 19, showcasing tales about leadership.
The first show, “Gareng Dadi Guru” (Gareng becomes a teacher), tells the story of a pauper who becomes a good leader with the ability to understand people’s desires, said Sriwedari’s coordinator Agus Prasetyo on Tuesday.
The performance is follow by “Gatotkaca Pinilih” (Gatotkaca the chosen one) and “Punakawan Tandang” (Punakawan on duty), both stories of Gatotkaca and Arjuna, prominent figures of the epic Mahabharata.
“Art can be a media to relay social messages. Art, indeed, has to be sensitive toward the social conditions of its surroundings,” said Agus.
The dance troupe will also use the event to address a vital issue: regeneration, a problem most traditional art groups faces.
“It is hoped that the show will attract a new next generation of Wayang Orang Sriwedari, considering that about 30 dancers will retire this year,” Agus stated.
Sriwedari has 75 dancers, 61 of whom have been granted the status of civil servants of Surakarta’s cultural and tourism agency. The rest are apprentices.
The group, which was established on July 10, 1910, has undergone ups and downs in popularity. From 1980 until 2002, Sriwedari’s daily shows attracted only three to 10 people.
Since 2003, performances have drawn 70 to 100 people to the Wayang Orang Sriwedari building.
“We perform every day, except Saturday and Sunday,” Agus said.
Sriwedari’s operational costs, including the building’s maintenance, are covered by the Surakarta administration. Ticket sales are included as regional income. Tickets cost Rp 3,000 (30 US cents) each.
“This is a reflection of our appreciation for traditional culture,” said the city’s cultural and tourism agency head, Widdy Srihanto. (yps/iwa)