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'Flying Cow': Sparking children's imagination through dance

Rory Heyward

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, January 22, 2019  /  08:58 am
'Flying Cow': Sparking children's imagination through dance

Out of the cage: Since its foundation in the Dutch city of Breda in 1994, dance company De Stilte is entirely dedicated to developing productions for children. (Courtesy of Komunitas Salihara/Witjak Widhi Cahya)

Illuminated by the spotlight, a plastic pipe frame sits on the middle of the stage. A woman dances her way closer to the frame while holding a plastic glove.

She sits down and comically blows into the glove as if it were a balloon, proceeding to attach it to the frame. The audience at Salihara Theater in South Jakarta erupts in laughter, and the children sitting in the front giggle and squeal. Suddenly, it makes sense to them.

“That is the cow!” screams out one of the children.

The blown up glove is the udders, attached to a frame that represents the body of a cow. The imagination becomes more vivid as the dancer clips a white sheet with black splotches on to the frame, representing the cow’s skin. She then swings the cow around in the air.

“Flying Cow!” another child screams.

Bucket-head: The Flying Cow dance performance on Jan. 12 presents absurd yet amusing moments that are met with rapturous laughter from the audience. Bucket-head: The Flying Cow dance performance on Jan. 12 presents absurd yet amusing moments that are met with rapturous laughter from the audience. (Courtesy of Komunitas Salihara/Witjak Widhi Cahya)

It is a scene of Flying Cow, a performance by De Stilte, a Dutch dance company that focuses entirely on developing productions for children since its initiation in Breda, the Netherlands, in 1994. Under the auspices of Dutch cultural center Erasmus Huis, De Stilte brought its playful performance to a lively audience at Salihara Theater on Jan. 12.

“The people here are fantastic!” said Tessa Wouters, one of the dancers of the De Stilte troupe.

“We drew a huge audience, and everyone was so enthusiastic and felt so ‘with us’. I see this performance as a duet between the audience and the performers,” she added.

With its playful choreography and unique storyline, Flying Cow seems to convey one important point that parents tend to forget: Children don’t need fancy toys to create beautiful imaginations.

The performance follows three dancers as children, who use their imagination to create toys of simple objects, such as eggs, buckets, pipes, chicken cages, feathers and leaves.

“Working with props is very difficult. Sometimes things go wrong, and every show is different. The eggs roll differently every show,” said dancer Gianmarco Stefanelli.

Odd one out: The play also touches on the issue of jealousy as a girl feels left out by her friends. Odd one out: The play also touches on the issue of jealousy as a girl feels left out by her friends. (Courtesy of Komunitas Salihara/Witjak Widhi Cahya)

While the characters often evoke feelings of joy and enthusiasm as they play around, they also capture moments of jealousy in friendship.

“The children watching may recognize things from their daily life in the dance. One takeaway, for example, is that it can be difficult to play with three people, as one person can sometimes feel left out. It is up to them to deal with situations like this,” Tessa said.

There are many moments where Flying Cow truly shines, fully drawing in the audience’s attention, capturing their imagination and drawing rapturous laughter.

In one scene, a dancer opens her mouth to reveal an egg inside, while in another scene another dancer seemingly emerges from underneath the stage, ripping through the cloth that had been laid out flat across the stage. Not to mention, of course, the aforementioned creation of the flying cow itself.

“We want the audience to think for themselves to interpret what they see. There are three characters, and there is a lot of imagery, but there is no story, so the audience is very free to create their own experience through their fantasy,” said Gianmarco.

- The writer is an intern at the Jakarta Post

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