The Jakarta Post
The audience of the 2018 Asian Games opening ceremony was mesmerized by the beautiful performance of the Ratoh Jaroe dance featured at the very beginning of the show.
The dance, originating from Aceh province, was performed by 1,600 high school students from 18 high schools in Jakarta and choreographed by renowned singer and dancer Denny Malik.
Dancers sat perfectly aligned and from a bird’s eye view, their movement created dynamic animation, which required multiple costume changes.
In the opening ceremony, the dancers were shown wearing gray costumes with gold accents. As the music progressed, the dance and color-changing animation became rapid, making people wonder how the dancers changed their costumes so fast.
Facebook user Viena Effendy posted a video on her Facebook page, showing how the rapid color-changing was actually a specially designed costume that allows the dancers to change the colors of their tops without going through a complicated costume-changing process.
Naya Salim, a student from SMAN 34 who participated in the colossal dance performance, said the costume consists of six layers of color, each secured by Velcro.
“We started rehearsing with the actual costume about three weeks before the performance,” she said.
Naya was among the 75 students from her school who successfully passed the audition to be a part of the performance. She then started rehearsing in school since March 2018 and in Gelora Bung Karno stadium three months before the show.
Denny Malik told kompas.id back in June that this was a massive undertaking for him. “The biggest challenge is for me to teach amateur dancers to perform as professionals would,” he said, referring to the high school students who performed the dance.
When asked whether she finds the dance difficult, Naya said she danced the Saman dance previously so it was not much of a difference. “I think the difference is in the speed. [The Ratoh Jaroe] is not as fast as the Saman.”
Many social media users mistake the Ratoh Jaroe dance for the similar Saman dance, which also originates from Aceh. The Ratoh Jaroe dance is traditionally performed by an even number of female dancers, while the Saman dance is traditionally performed by an odd number of male dancers.
Another significant difference is that the Saman dancers usually wear a Gayo traditional costume, while Ratoh Jaroe dancers usually wear a plain costume, combined with songket (traditional Aceh woven cloth).
Regarding the experience, Naya told The Jakarta Post on Sunday, “You can’t get it at any other place. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. To hear the audience cheer for us brought tears to my eyes.”
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