The Jakarta Post
The struggle of women is the main thread of the dance drama Padusi, which is being performed at the Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) cultural center in Jakarta this weekend.
Based of folktales centering on female characters in the matrilineal Minangkabau society of West Sumatra, Padusi takes the audience through the battles of life faced by one woman experiencing three lives.
The performance presents an array of Minangkabau cultural elements: dance, music, poetry, attire and decor. The word padusi means woman or female in the Minang language.
In the story, the titular character Padusi arrives in Padang on a plane from Jakarta. She is recently widowed and wants to rediscover her cultural heritage in the land of her ancestors.
During her visit, she encounters legends from local folktales, which are represented by three vignettes in the play.
The first is about Puti Bungsu, a fairy who is stranded after her wings are stolen and hidden by Malin Deman, while she bathes at a pond with her sisters.
Puti Bungsu is later forced into marriage with Malin Deman, a man dependent on his mother. Even after giving birth to her son, Malin Duano, Puti Bungsu never stops looking for her stolen wings.
The second story, which is related to the first, follows Malin Deman, who leaves his village to look for Puti Bungsu. He meets the womanizing Lareh Simawang, who intends to marry another woman despite already having an expectant wife, Siti Jamilan, and two children.
After discovering that her husband wishes to marry a younger woman, the pregnant Siti Jamilan decides to kill herself and her two children. Lareh Simawang is deeply shocked by his wife's actions and loses his mind.
In the third and final encounter with the legends, Padusi observes the story of the beautiful and kindhearted Sabai Nan Aluih, who refuses to be betrothed to an elderly aristocrat, Rajo Nan Panjang. Her betrothal was demanded as a payment for the debts of her father, Rajo Babandiang.
In the final scene, Padusi talks with Malin Deman and Lareh Simawang. She imparts the lesson she has learned from the women.
'I am not a woman that can be bought with wealth and power, or can be judged,' Padusi says, both to herself and the men.
Padusi is created and choreographed by Tom Ibnur, a dance teacher at the Jakarta Arts Institute, the Indonesian Arts School (STSI) in Padangpanjang and the Malay Arts Academy in Riau.
The dance drama is directed by Rama Soeprapto, who was also involved in noted productions of I La Galigo in New York and The Temptation of Saint Anthony in Australia. The script was written by film producer, director and screenwriter Nia Dinata, whose films include Ca Bau Kan and the Arisan! series.
Ine Febriyanti plays Puti Bungsu, Siti Jamilan and Sabai Nan Aluih and is supported by Marissa Anita (Padusi); Riyano Viranico (Malin Deman) and Andy Jagger (Lareh Siwamang).
One of the highlights of Padusi's choreography and drama is the lamentation of Lareh Simawang, which is both heartrending and breathtaking.
A giant projection screen, which serves as the backdrop on the stage, gives important setting cues and also strengthens the atmosphere during the different scenes.
Padusi is a breath of fresh air on the local theatrical scene, which has been dominated by traditional Javanese musicals for the past few years.
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