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Dancers keep show going on virtual stage

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, May 4, 2020  /  03:32 pm
Dancers keep show going on virtual stage

Quality entertainment: The Indonesia Dance Network curates performances to appear on its YouTube channel. (EKI Dance Company/-)

Virtual settings provide a new home for self-expression for the dance community as it is deprived of its stage.

Slump in productivity and cashflow concern are among the most severe impacts of the global health crisis, which also hit the dance community. But the show must go on.

“I have talked to various dance communities in different parts of Indonesia. And if I may conclude, the gist [is that they] yearn to be back, performing again,” said Ratri Anindyajati, a dancer and art performance producer.

As a survivor of COVID-19, identified as Case No. 3, Ratri took the opportunity to become the ambassador of Saweran Online, a crowdfunding dance program in which viewers can “pay” for entertainment and at the same time express their concern and support for dancers’ welfare.

“The pandemic has taken away the stage and their ability to perform in public space. For the dance community, dance is their fighting spirit. To get through this uncertain time, they have to keep on dancing,” she added.

The Jakarta Arts Council took the initiative to create a virtual stage for the dancers with support from the Directorate General of Culture.

Launched on April 29, the Indonesia Dance Network stage can be viewed on YouTube and Instagram, with dance videos curated by the council.

To date, 15 videos have been posted on its YouTube channel, comprising dance performances from various genres as well as dance tutorial clips.

According to Yola Yulfianti, the chair of the dance committee at the Jakarta Arts Council, the curation process is “amicable” to encourage all performers to submit their videos.

“Please don’t give up dancing and change your profession to make ends meet. When the pandemic is over, we don’t want to see [a situation] with no dancers left,” said Yola at the launch talk show aired live on YouTube.

All performances heed the physical distancing requirements, with some taken in the comfort of the performer’s living room or a dance studio.

Balinese dance choreographer Dekgeh, for instance, performed his solo number Surya Sang Kelana (The Wandering Sun) on the beach, with the sun as a backdrop for him to appear as a silhouette.

The virtual stage is integrated with Saweran Online. Each of the posts contain a link in the description box that directs to a payment system run by financial technology company OVO with support from virtual wallet DOKU.

The proceeds from the show go to the performers and to COVID-19 relief funds. Some of the donations are given to informal sector workers whose livelihoods are affected by the movement restriction under the existing program Patungan Untuk Berbagi THR (or chipping in to pay Idul Fitri holiday bonus) initiated by OVO, Tokopedia and Grab. 

The broadcast and digital promotion team of the Indonesia Dance Network and Saweran Online are managed by the Eksotika Karmawibhangga Indonesia Foundation, the organization that runs the professional EKI Dance Company and an essential partner to the arts council.

“It is a new challenge for our management team and artists as we want to involve many dance communities in the program,” said Alim Sudio from the EKI Foundation.

As a facilitator of the virtual stage, the Directorate General of Culture has also prepared online programs for other art communities, including literary works, music and theaters.

“The virtual stage [serves] as a meeting point between the performers and their audience. We hope this activity can increase public appreciation of the arts as the object to promote for cultural progress and to maintain the sustainability of the ecosystem,” said Director General of Culture Hilmar Farid at the talk show hosted by TV personality and actor Uli Herdinansyah.

Earlier, Hilmar’s office had registered 38,000 artists affected by the pandemic. About 70 percent of them with monthly income of less than Rp 10 million (US$657) are eligible as beneficiaries of the central government’s financial aid.

“We are prioritizing those with low income. The budgeting is currently on the desk of the Finance Ministry and we are still waiting for the final budget execution list. I hope the funds will reach the recipients in mid-May,” Hilmar told The Jakarta Post.

He said his office had also set up cooperation schemes with other institutions.

“Many of those with income above Rp 10 million per month provide jobs for other artists, so we hope the schemes we offer can have a trickle-down effect on the whole community.”

Although the government’s financial aid would be given in a lump sum, the directorate general was cooperating with regional administrations and stakeholders to set up similar schemes to support artists.

“I believe that, if we share the responsibility with our colleagues in the regions, this effort will be effective to deal with this crisis,” Hilmar added.

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