The Jakarta Post
When in doubt, be still.
The In Between dance performance recently staged at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (GKJ) in Central Jakarta shows that stillness is an important phase that can determine following movements if one is in doubt.
The show began with two male dancers appearing on a screen that was placed in the background of the stage. Their movements were reminiscent of traditional Indonesian martial arts known as pencak silat.
But it was a different kind of pencak silat that was on display as in every move they made, the dancers crouched and behaved like tigers. They were performing silat harimau, the tiger-style pencak silat from Minangkabau, West Sumatra.
After a few minutes of the visual performance on-screen, the dancers abruptly came out onto the stage, crouching like tigers that had just came out of hiding.
With so little music accompanying the dance and minimal stage decorations ' if none at all ' every eye was focused on the dancers' moves and their breathing sounds.
Partly through the 49-minute show, the audience might have grown bored of the repetitive movements in the quiet hall.
However, as the show went on, the audience grew excited as the dancers started to build up the plot.
But it was not because they showed off more fight-inspired moves or dance moves, or played lively music. The audience was lured in by stillness and intense gazes.
As the dancers intensely gazed at each other, they moved closer and looked as though they were trying to read each other's minds, trying to figure out their opponent's next move. Unexpectedly, one dancer jumped to attack the other dancer.
'All the movements on stage were done instinctively. We didn't choreograph any moves,' one of the dancers, Davit Fitrik, told The Jakarta Post after the show.
Benny Krisnawardi, another dancer, said that traditional silat harimau indeed incorporated stillness, which was used by the dancers to decide whether or not they wanted to attack their opponent.
'Those moments fit perfectly with the In Between concept,' he said.
Benny said that although most of the movements were not choreographed, there were still several structures they needed to follow.
He said they used basic movements, galuik (a method used to train instinct) along with fight moves.
'Silat harimau must only be practiced by those who have mastered their instincts. Otherwise, it can be dangerous,' Benny said.
It took the pair around five months to prepare the dance, which is considered fast as it usually takes years for someone to master their instincts.
Davit said they were able to connect fast as the pair had performed together before in another dance.
'I've trained in dance so it was not that hard for me to grasp the things Benny taught me about silat harimau and it didn't take long for us to match instincts either,' he said.
Benny said that the In Between dance featured uncommon styles of silat harimau.
'This is original; other styles of silat harimau have standing parts, but we didn't incorporate those here. I learned it in Minangkabau years ago, my school did not teach the standing-style,' Benny said.
He added that as part of their training program, they had to learn how to be more flexible as the dance required them to go into the crouching position.
Artistic director Katia Engel said In Between explored movements that were hard to predict.
Engel said the team decided to enrich the show by adding visualizes on the background screen that featured natural elements, which connected to the natural and instinctive movements of the dance.
'We chose to do this because it's interesting, very close to nature, the timing is unpredictable. You never know when the next movement coming, it's different from other dances,' she said.
Engel said besides in Jakarta, they also planned to perform in other cities.
All in all, Benny said they were glad silat harimau was able to become the main theme of a dance show, especially in Jakarta, because it had started to fade away amid all of today's modernity.
'We're so proud of this project because not many people know about silat harimau and it is rarely performed nowadays,' he said.
In Between was the closing performance in the series of art events held at the GKJ in celebration of Jakarta's 486th anniversary.
'Photos by Katia Engel