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Masked: Ditta Miranda Jasjfi performs a dance with Sikko Setyanto on July 27 at the Goethe Institut in Jakarta. JP/Ricky Yudhistira
Around 30 minutes before Ditta Miranda Jasjfi’s show, audience members had formed a long line at the door of the theater.
Among the no less than 300 spectators, there were also a number of renowned artists such as Farida Oetoyo (choreographer), Hartati Nfn (choreographer), Linda Hoemar (former dancer), Sal Murgiyanto (art critic), Tony Prabowo (composer) and Goenawan Mohamad (columnist and theater director).
The show at the Goethe Institut also attracted the young, which is a rarity, especially for a style of dance with a somewhat limited audience. But if you recognize the artist who graced the stage that night, then the long line was justified.
The magnet of the evening was Ditta, the only Indonesian dancer who has enjoyed the privilege of working with the late Pina Bausch at Tanztheater Wuppertal in Germany.
Titled “A Dance Journey”, Ditta, a petite dancer with long black hair, presented three short dance pieces that night, one by Ditta’s ballet teacher, Farida Oetoyo, and two by Bausch, a German dancer, choreographer, dance teacher and ballet director who has shaped the 20th century performing art world since the 1970s.
It was certainly a high achievement for Ditta to be part of that company.
“Farida Oetoyo was the one who suggested that I dance in Jakarta. According to Farida, many Indonesians do not know about me. In fact, she said it was necessary for them to know of my existence. I only agreed to what she asked me,” Ditta said about the motivation for the show that night.
Ditta has been Farida’s student since 1977, when the Sumber Cipta School of Ballet still occupied Farida’s garage.
Farida said Ditta’s achievements should be known in Indonesia, not only to encourage pride in a homegrown dancer but also to encourage other dancers to be more serious. “Ditta is a persistent dancer, willing to learn and work hard for what she wants,” says Farida.
Before Ditta’s performance, Goethe screened two videos of Bausch’s works: Cafe Muller and Frühlingsopfer (Rite of Spring).
Afterwards, Ditta performed Ten Chi and Vollmond from Bausch and TOC by Farida, in which she danced with Sikko Setyanto.
Ten Chi, meaning “sky-earth” in Japanese, is a co-production with Saitama Prefecture, the Saitama Arts Foundation and the Nippon Cultural Center.
Wearing a long-dress, Ditta danced with small movements, such as the movement of her head, hands and fingers. A number of movements emulated the movement of birds, as well as some combination of Japanese traditional arts like kabuki and samurai-style swordplay.
“To find such movements, I had to live three months in Japan and learned a lot, from their mundane activities to their arts,” says Ditta.
In the second dance, TOC, Ditta and Sikko both wore masks. Together they interacted passionately in scenes that were full of playfulness and expressions of love and jealousy. The dance felt light and expressive.
TOC was not only entertaining in the visual sense with exquisite dancing technique, but also stimulating for its bold accents of comedy and love.
In addition, the music by Aksan Syuman was indulging and overall took the imagination into “the other world”.
Ditta and Sikko were able to make the masks become expressive, even as they had different expressions in accordance with what they wanted to convey to the audience.
According to Farida, the dance had transformed as if it was a new version. “Ditta made some adaptations and changes that did not change the essence but it felt different than when the work was performed by other dancers,” she remarked. TOC is Farida’s work, which debuted in 1986 with Ditta as the dancer.
Finally, Vollmond or Full Moon. Like Bausch’s other works, Vollmond feels like poetry with body movement as the words. A flick of the hair, a motion of the head, fingers moving slowly and slightly, all gave expression to the audience.
Even the sighing sounds of the breath caused the audience to feel the energy and the expressions of the dancers.
For Bausch, every slight movement is a language that brings out flavor and makes each of her works different. Even when her eyes were closed, the audience could still
experience some expression.
“In making choreography, Pina [Bausch] asked every dancer to answer a question or a statement she gave with a movement. That is Pina’s genius way of selecting, sorting and fomenting spirit in every movement she chooses,” said Ditta about the process of inventing the movement in that work.
That night not all of the audience members might have enjoyed or understood the works that were performed.
But, it seems the work was designed not for the intellect but for the heart.
The show brought together elements of the arts together, emphasizing Ditta’s professional journey and achievements. Moreover, it offered hope for young dancers for their future careers.