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Eko Supriyanto: Deconstructs dance and physicality

Sebastian Partogi

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, December 13, 2017  /  08:49 am
Eko Supriyanto: Deconstructs dance and physicality

Home show: Indonesian choreographer and dancer Eko Supriyanto performs Salt, the final work in his ‘Trilogy of Jailolo,’ at Salihara in South Jakarta. The dance premiered in Antwerp, Belgium. (Salihara Community/Witjak Widhi Cahya)

After its global premiere in Antwerp, Belgium, Salt finally hit the stage at home in Salihara, Pasar Minggu in South Jakarta.

The dance piece by Indonesian choreographer and dancer Eko Supriyanto was the final work in his Trilogy of Jailolo, inspired by his work with the people of Jailolo in West Halmahera, North Maluku. The other two works were Cry Jailolo (2014-2015) and Balabala ( 2016 ).

The audience was entranced by the number, which included an eclectic mix of dance traditions, which Eko has deconstructed, along with amazing lighting arrangements by Jan Maertens.

Eko said the creative process for Salt was inspired by his experience of taking up diving lessons in Jailolo, prompting him to reflect on the meaning of dance and human movement as a whole.

The title refers to the salt content of seawater, as well as the salt content of human sweat, which embodies the complexity of human movements.

“Defying gravity, I tried different movements while I was taking diving lessons, whether I was underwater or floating on the surface,” said the 48-year-old, who danced on Madonna’s “Drowned World Tour” and worked as a consultant for The Lion King musical by Julie Taymor.

His diving lessons enhanced his comprehension of the dance traditions that he has studied, driving him to enhance his movement repertoire with new insights he gained from this new experience.

“I was fascinated with the complexity of diving; its impact on our bodily functions, like breathing as well as the safety requirements that it entails and how we are also influenced by natural factors, such as the waves and the weather. The idea of appearing from and disappearing into the water is also something I want to explore.”

This exploration could be seen in the first phase of the choreography, with the excellent lighting arrangement by Maertens, who used reflectors to create an appearing and disappearing effect, similar to how people dive into and come out of the water.

“I want to work with indirect light. The backlight blinds the audience, making them see the void while shedding light on Eko’s space. We want to evoke a feeling of the deep blue ocean that you can disappear into,” Maertens explained.

Diving has inspired Indonesian choreographer and dancer Eko Supriyanto to deconstruct his comprehension of dance and physicality.Diving has inspired Indonesian choreographer and dancer Eko Supriyanto to deconstruct his comprehension of dance and physicality. (Salihara Community/Witjak Widhi Cahya)

From the darkness Eko appeared, standing up and them moving his foot and arm gracefully as if he was floating, surrendering his body movements to the water’s force.

He further expanded the choreography to deconstruct different dance traditions and also human physicality, incorporating the Javanese jathilan dance, which requires dancers to have their feet planted firmly on the ground; as well as the cakalele war dance from Maluku, where dancers have to bounce up and down.

In the second part of the choreography, he performed his own version of the Javanese jathilan.

Visually, this was the most beautiful part of the dance. The lighting on most parts of the stage — including the sliver of light that shrouded the audience’s seats, which allowed you to see silhouettes of the audience’s bodies — had been turned off, leaving us in total darkness.

Lights were focused on Eko, who danced in slow motion, creating an effect whereby you were almost certain that his body was enveloped by an optical aura. Thanks to this shroud of light, you felt a slow motion scene of his arms being dragged here and there. The dance built itself up to faster sequences of movements, with loud and dissonant background music.

“We use conventional light bulbs to represent quality absent among LED light bulbs. We use software to manipulate the light spectrum. Here, you can see organic movements of the light, in which it is never stable but keep on moving to the next picture,” Maertens explained the slow motion effect.

He added that through the software, he was able to manipulate the light spectrum, between infrared and ultraviolet rays, to present different color tones observable in the ocean, when light is being reflected by water and coral reefs.

Contrary to the traditional jathilan dance, which requires its dancers to maintain a flat facial expression all the way through, near the climax of the second part, Eko’s face and eyebrows twitched and he stuck out his tongue repeatedly while swallowing a white rose. It looked as though he was possessed by something — the jathilan dance includes trance among its dancers.

“Once I get comfortable with [a dance form], I always have a desire to deconstruct it, like in terms of facial expression in Javanese dance here – why are we required to dance without any facial expressions?” he explained.

After the distressing “trance” scene in the jathilan part, he went on to perform the third fragment of the dance, where he moved vertically and horizontally through a pile of white salt powder on the floor, creating a “T” shape against the black tiles.

He exploited the theater’s space as he continued dancing, which movements inspired by Maluku’s cakalele war dance. The fragment was one of the most energetic and exuberant movements throughout the show, uplifting the audience’s moods as the performance ended.