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Dewabrata: A man's devotion to his father and country

A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, May 3, 2018  /  08:57 am
Dewabrata: A man's devotion to his father and country

The story begins: The Dewabrata dance performance also features light and shadow plays. (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Once again, Retno Maruti has proven her status as a maestro of classical dance in the country.

Dance company Padneçwara showcased their mastery over Javanese classical dance at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) cultural center in Central Jakarta in late April. 

The set might be simple, but the two-hour dance show, titled Dewabrata, was simply breathtaking. It was masterminded by the troupe’s founder, maestro Retno Maruti, who teamed up with her daughter Rury Nostalgia on choreography and her husband, renowned choreographer Sentot Sudiharto, on artistic design. 

For Retno, who turns 71 this year, the event was special as it also marked the 42nd anniversary of Padneçwara. 

Going after power: An opening scene shows Durgandini facing a dilemma after getting a marriage proposal from Sentanu, the king of Hastinapura.Going after power: An opening scene shows Durgandini facing a dilemma after getting a marriage proposal from Sentanu, the king of Hastinapura. (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Performed with Javanese songs and dialogue, Dewabrata is not a new work as she had played it once in 1997 in her hometown of Surakarta in Central Java. However, at TIM, she brought it back with a bang.  

This time, the mission of performing Dewabrata was not just to preserve the classical dances of Yogyakarta and Surakarta or to attract young people to love the dances. Retno brought the character of Dewabrata to life in a bid to ignite the spirit of patriotism amid a year of politics.  

“The performance of Dewabrata is a form of love or responsibility or loyalty [of a child] to his or her parents, the nation and the country,” she said.

The performance opens with a scene when Durgandini (Purwo Tjahja Indrawati) becomes confused after getting a marriage proposal from Prabu Sentanu, the king of Hastinapura. From the bottom of her heart, she wishes that if she has a son, he would be a king one day, but she realizes that her wish will create conflict in the future because Sentanu already has a son, crown prince Dewabrata (Wasi Bantolo).

Sentanu, who does not have the heart to take the birth right of his son, falls ill after learning about the wish. 

When meeting Dewabrata, Durgandini tells him that she would fulfill his father’s request on one condition. 

“If your father and I have a son, he should be the one who will take power and become the king of Hastinapura,” she said in Javanese. 

Having deep love and respect for his father, Dewabrata says that he does not mind if the throne goes to Durgandini’s children. He even pledges that he will never marry to avoid conflicts of power in the kingdom.

Ready for battle: Wasi Bantolo (center) plays Dewabrata during the dance opera Dewabrata on April 27 and 28 at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta.Ready for battle: Wasi Bantolo (center) plays Dewabrata during the dance opera Dewabrata on April 27 and 28 at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta. (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Dewabrata’s devotion to his kingdom continues. He even tries to help his stepbrothers, Citragada and Citrawirya, get wives by joining a contest held by the kingdom of Kasipura. The top prize is three beautiful Kasipura princesses: Amba (Yuni Swandiati), Ambika (Lasti Purwani) and Ambalika (Henny Rachmawati).

Because he has sworn that he will never marry, Dewabrata plans to give the prize to his stepbrothers. He defeats two powerful giant twins Wahmuka (Yestriyono Piliyanto) and Arimuka (Mahesani Tunjung Seto) in an epic and captivating dance battle. 

He wins the contest only to realize that he has fallen for Amba and vice versa. But he has a pledge that he does not want to break. They both are then involved in a complicated love story.   

Padneçwara artistic team member Sonny Sumarsono said the performance in TIM was different from its old version in 1997.

“The choreography and the musical arrangement are more complicated,” he said, adding that the new version of Dewabrata combined the dance style of Yogyakarta with that of Surakarta. 

For Wasi, Dewabrata is an example of a man who keeps his word.

“Wherever we are, we have to be responsible for everything we have done,” he said. 

The classic dancer and choreographer from the Indonesian Fine Arts Institute (ISI) in Surakarta said Retno was his role model.

Retno MarutiRetno Maruti (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Born into a family with art in its genes, Retno founded the Padneçwara dance company in 1976 with her husband, Sentot Sudiharto. The word Padneçwara, from Sanskrit, means empress. It comes from the words padni (wife) and iswara (king).

Before Dewabrata, some of Retno’s masterpieces are dance operas: Abimanyu Gugur ( 1976 ), Roro Mendut ( 1977 ), Sekar Pembayun ( 1979 ) and Ciptoning ( 1980 ). In 2006, she collaborated with Ayu Bulantrisna Djelantik, the maestro of Legong dance, for a performance entitled Bedoyo Legong Calonarang. 

Retno said all of her works were inspired by Javanese classical stories. “They can be legends or fairytales,” she said. 

She never recognizes the words “quit” or “retirement” — even as a septuagenarian, she still performs on stage, playing Amba in one of the two-day performances.

For Retno, dance is a soul that moves freely to define beauty.

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