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Indonesia Ballet Gala to promote inclusiveness

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, August 29, 2017  /  09:08 am
Indonesia Ballet Gala to promote inclusiveness

Collaboration: CANdoDANCE comprises 14 dancers, six of whom are hearing impaired. (JP/Ibrahim Irsyad)

Fourteen dancers moved back and forth on the stage, slowly at first, but later each went at a different speed and style, walking or running. At any time, one would stop and dance solo or tap another on the shoulder and dance together before passing by again.

Like a passage of clouds that accumulate near the end, the dancers intertwined with each other in bigger and bolder movements before dispersing again.

With the performance, no one in the audience could tell that six of the dancers were hearing impaired until right at the end when they bowed and cheered by raising their hands and twisting the wrists rapidly in response to the applause.

The 20-minute contemporary number showcased at the Jakarta Play House on July 8 is a work in progress set to be performed at the second installment of the Indonesian Ballet Gala on Sept. 23. Themed An Inclusive Dance Event, people with different abilities alongside standard dancers from the United Kingdom, Australia, France, South Korea and Italy — besides the Indonesian group CANdoDANCE — will share the stage.

Mariska Febriyani, a co-founder of Ballet ID, the organization that initiated the Indonesian Ballet Gala in 2015, said the idea to hold the inclusive dance program came about from her experience attending the Unlimited Festival of Disability Arts in the UK last year.

Body language: Dancers of CANdoDANCE lie on the stage during a preview of their contemporary dance.Body language: Dancers of CANdoDANCE lie on the stage during a preview of their contemporary dance. (JP/Ibrahim Irsyad)

“I doubted the inclusive dance program would work at first. I never danced with dancers with disabilities and I often asked myself if I could. Before this, I even thought that I couldn’t teach disabled person to dance. But I’m convinced now that what limits a person is not their physical body, but the fear inside their heads,” said the ballerina who was once a resident of the Bangkok City Ballet.

Collaborating with the British Council, Ballet ID received help from the London-based Candoco Dance Company, a group that for the past 26 years has facilitated and opened up more opportunities for disabled dancers.

“CANdoDANCE is a concrete form of Indonesia-UK collaboration within the framework of creative relations between the two countries, which is the spirit of the 2016-2018 UK/Indonesia program,” said Paul Smith, the British Council director in Indonesia.

“It’s an extraordinary initiative that raises the issue of diversity and inclusiveness through the arts, not simply to showcase but to encourage everyone to share their creativity and to work together because everyone is gifted with unique abilities.”

The 14 dancers were selected through an audition of 30 participants in June and went through a workshop with Candoco members Mirjam Gurtner and Tanja Erhart. In the workshop, the dancers practiced the choreography for five days before going on stage.

Conversation on stage: Dancers of CANdoDANCE present a preview of their contemporary dance performance that will be showcased during the second Indonesian Ballet Gala in September. Themed “An Inclusive Dance Event,” it will be held at Teater Jakarta in Taman Ismail Marzuki, Central Jakarta, on Sept. 23.Conversation on stage: Dancers of CANdoDANCE present a preview of their contemporary dance performance that will be showcased during the second Indonesian Ballet Gala in September. Themed “An Inclusive Dance Event,” it will be held at Teater Jakarta in Taman Ismail Marzuki, Central Jakarta, on Sept. 23. (JP/Ibrahim Irsyad)

“We just created this specific structure together yesterday evening and as a choreographer, I changed things an hour ago,” said Gurtner after the performance. “To see them on stage step up their game and awareness of each other was really exciting to watch.”

Erhart, a disabled dancer who lost a limb when she was six, said the dancers shared the same passion and commitment to the project.

“In rehearsals, disabled and non-disabled is not a distinction anymore. There is no difference. We make this together,” she said about the dance.

Although all the disabled dancers had little experience on stage and only had training in traditional dance, the group as a whole managed to minimize the gap between the members with their own “common language” — which required active engagement from each dancer and a lot of talk over finding solutions to every difficulty.

One of the hearing-impaired dancers, Isro, 25, said at first it was difficult to keep up with the more experienced, non-disabled dancers because there were no “counts” or “beats” to follow as in traditional dance training.

“We have to be creative and make our own decisions on when and what to do next. But as soon as all of us interacted better, we could get over the difficulties,” she said. “I’m not totally deaf and some of us wear hearing devices so we can follow the music if it’s played loud enough.”

Her colleague, Anissa Rahmania, 24, said she decided to join the audition to prove that people with disabilities were no different to those who are not in expressing themselves through the arts.

Nia, as she is fondly called, was born deaf to deaf parents. She has been active since 2012 promoting inclusiveness for young people through her organization Young Voice. Being deaf, she said, is her identity.

“When talking about inclusivity, most people see it only as acceptance toward people with different abilities, while all we need is engagement and access to many activities. That is why joining the dance event is important to us.”

The Second Indonesia Ballet Gala: An Inclusive Dance Event will be held on Sept. 23 at Teater Jakarta, Taman Ismail Marzuki, in Cikini, Central Jakarta.  There will be two shows in the day, starting at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from Rp 280,000 (US20.98) to Rp 1.25 million, available at www.loket.com or www.ballet.id/gala2017

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