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Jakarta event highlights dance as part of cultural diplomacy

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sun, May 12, 2019  /  07:09 am
Jakarta event highlights dance as part of cultural diplomacy

Purwakanthi dancers perform 'golek sukoretno' at @america in Pacific Place shopping mall, South Jakarta, on May 7. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

A dance performance is more than just moving your body in such an aesthetical way, but this branch of performance art can also be a universal language that connects different cultures. 

The United States Embassy’s cultural center in Jakarta, @america, held an event on May 7 entitled “Celebrating International Dance Day: Cultural Diplomacy Through Dance”. The event featured presentations from members of Purwakanthi, a community of Javanese dance enthusiasts.

Yurita “Riri” Yuzwar, one of the speakers that night, explained how her passion for dancing had enabled her to make friends with people from other countries. It happened when she studied in the US in 1996 at American University in Washington DC, where she studied for four months before being transferring to Georgia State University in Georgia.

Yurita Yuzwar (center),  a member of the Purwakanthi community, discusses her experience in the United States during Yurita Yuzwar (center), a member of the Purwakanthi community, discusses her experience in the United States during "Celebrating International Dance Day: Cultural Diplomacy Through Dance" at @america in South Jakarta on May 7, alongside Yoesi Ariyani (right), cofounder of Purwakanthi, and Primastuti Handayani (left), the event's moderator and member of Purwakanthi. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

“I participated in a lot of cultural events, especially in Washington DC,” Riri told The Jakarta Post after the event. “It’s not only limited to Indonesia-related events, such as Independence Day, Kartini Day or Mother’s Day but there were also international events that involved people from different countries.”

Riri also said dancing can overcome language barrier among students. “When I studied in Atlanta, students often held international events as well. We didn’t know each other back then, but when the event started, we could get to know other students,” said Riri, adding that she could make friends with students from Japan, Korea, India and Thailand.

Read also: Purwakanthi seeks to preserve classic Surakartan Javanese dances in Jakarta

Riri joined Purwakanthi in 2016 as she was interested in learning Javanese dances. Purwakanthi was established in 2013 with just nine members, having grown since then to 80 members from various backgrounds, including journalists, high school students and doctors. The Jakarta-based community specializes in classic Javanese dance from Surakarta.

The community participated in World Dance Day at the Surakarta Art Institute (ISI) in Central Java on April 29. Held for 24 hours, the event gathered thousands of dancers from different provinces in Indonesia.

Audience members take part in a dance workshop by Purwakanthi at @america in Pacific Place shopping mall, South Jakarta, on May 7. Audience members take part in a dance workshop by Purwakanthi at @america in Pacific Place shopping mall, South Jakarta, on May 7. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

Yoesi Ariyani, cofounder of Purwakanthi, said 18 dancers had been brought to World Dance Day. “We presented golek sukoretno and bedhaya sapta argo. Each dance was performed by nine dancers,” said Yoesi, who was also a speaker, adding that bedhaya sapta argo was 12 minutes long.  

Performing in a public event is important for the community as such an event can assess the competency of the dancers.

Yoesi said anyone who appreciated Javanese culture was welcome to join Purwakanthi. The community does not divide its members based on age or dancing skills. (mut)