When I was eight years old, the age known in Javanese as a windu my father invited one of his friends, called Raden Ngabehi Kridosoekatgo. He was an expert in the traditional martial art known as silat, who was in service at the Surakarta kraton or palace, and had been asked to teach me silat. To reach the age of eight means to pass from childhood in to a period of transition. Why was it necessary to learn silat? At the time, my father explained to me that a teenager who had learnt silat would have greater self-confidence and dare to play to more distant places than a child who had not learnt silat. A person who had learnt silat would also dare to climb higher trees as if he fell, his body would control itself, like a cat, which does not hurt itself when falling.
As I remember, at the time I did not pay much attention to that kind of advice. It is now that I am older, however, that I remember exactly what my father said, although I know it is not entirely true. Proof of this is that the older I get, the more scared I am of heights. Possibly because I once fell from a cherry tree, which left me traumatized.
Three years after I first started to learn silat, my teacher told me it would be a good idea for me to learn dance, as in his opinion. "dance is a higher form of silat". In the world of silat, there are always opponents and enemies but never any friends. On the contrary, in art there is no such word as "enemy". However, eventually I became aware that this statement is not completely true as competition in the world of art is far more intense and frightening. In the world of art, individuation is strongly encouraged.
The words uttered by my silat teacher are truly poetic. "If you learn silat, you will be able to paralyze the attack of the enemy. But with dance, you can paralyze your aggressive intentions before the attack has change to appear". The aim of dance movements subsequently is to soften or refine the feelings. And the fact was that when I went to the late Raden Ngabehi Atmokesowo at that time, he at once set limits, that I may only dance the refined dance style, alusan, or the refined dance characters from the Mahabarata and Ramayana epics.
Dance movements are a sequence of body movements which have the goal of controlling fluctuating emotions, so that what appears gives an impression of a continuous flow, calm, without ripples or erratic movements or even explosions. We can trace the origins of this principle of detachment to the influence of Buddhism, which is strongly rooted in the Javanese culture. The impression of tranquility in the world of wang-wung, a world without image or form, may be what is being sought. We can even find the atmosphere of the world of Arupa Dhatu at the top of the Borobudur temple, which is art from 9th century. It is no coincidence therefore that the dance regarded as sacred by the Solo palace is Bedaya Ketawang, which means the universe. The movements in this Bedaya Ketawang dance are very simple, with few ornaments, and the instrumentation for the accompanying gendhing is not as full as the gamelan used for wayang or shadow puppet theatre. The patterns of dance are simple; the movements sway smoothly, as if following the breathing pattern of the dancers.
According to the experts, the theme of Bedaya Ketawang is the marriage between the Javanese King and the Queen of the South Sea. If this is the case, I believe that this description is an indication of the mixture of Buddhist and Hindu influences. This conclusion refers to the description that the Queen of the South Sea is depicted as having two images, as extraordinarily soft and beautiful while visiting and making love with the Javanese King, and on the contrary becoming quiet frightful while in the Kingdom of the South Sea, where she is in charge of all the ghosts and demons. The ghosts, in my opinion, are really an image of Durga Umayi, who in the Hindu religion is the most important goddess, as Shakti Shiwa. In the Bedaya Ketawang this theme is presented in a poetical and abstract form, while remaining within the shadows of Arupadhatu, without a clear image. The movements performed are realized at a distance from an atmosphere of emotion. Dramatics are also applied, even when dancing a dance with a strong character, such as knights and ogres, including also the character of Rahwana in the Ramayana.
One of the last dancers to represent the concept outlined above was the S. Ngaliman. His patterns of movement, performed in an atmosphere of calm and authority involved no dramatic movement or expression, even though the character would be easily interpreted with a dramatically expressive statement.
Returning to the process of studying dance. In the context of learning Javanese dance, there is a belief held that in order to become a good dancer, one must have a basic ability in alus or refined dance. The main premise for this is that dancing is as educational process to acquire an ideal personality in the view of Javanese life. An ideal personality is one which is able to control emotions with movement and behaviour patterns, or body language, which in interpersonal relationships always shows self-restraint and allows others to take the initiative. A personality which is almost passive and easily ashamed when acting outside the norms. These norms become the basis for reacting to the patterns of dance movements taught. High technical discipline is obligatory, as discipline in the details of movement performed also reflects the discipline in implementation of social order.
My teacher, R. Ngabehi Atmokesowo, lived in the Kraton environment. His house was in Wirengan alley, which comes from the wood wireng, the meaning of which indicates dancers residences. He had the ideal character for a Javanese dance teacher. His face was impressive, his body small, his hands supple, and he was a master of alus dance. His skin was fair and clean, and when he spoke, his voice was soft and slow. His eyes were sharp and sometimes closed when he spoke meaningful words. He lived with discipline, did not drink and was always well dressed. Atmokesmo's behaviour was always controlled, paying attention to detail and enjoying sitting around for hours in contemplation, not only when he was dancing or teaching dance but also in his every day life. This reminds us that he appeared to apply the meditation of Vipasana constantly in his day-to-day life. Vipasana meditation is a kind of meditation carried out in retreat over a period of a few days, a week or ten days, when a person passes through the day moving slowly and with self control, without talking or interacting with others, and avoiding emotional activities which may cause happiness or anger either to oneself or to others.
In Javanese dance community in Solo, Atmokesowo was not only dance teacher with an ideal character or personality. There was another teacher by the name of R. Ngabehi Wignyo Hambekso, whose character was almost completely the opposite of the image of an ideal character for a dance teacher found in Raden Ngabehi Atmokesowo. Wignyo Hambekso lived outside the kraton environment but had been given the title hambekso which means dance. As a dance teacher, he was known for his memory of a great vocabulary of ancient court dances. It seemed as if there was no end of ancient court dances in his memory to teach. Almost all younger dance teachers agreed that Atmokesowo's wealth of dance movements were virtually meaningless when compared with Wignyo Hambekso's knowledge of ancient dance.
There was a basic difference between Atmokesowo and Hambekso. Atmokesowo taught clear patterns, in orderly manner, with attention to detail. For this reason a long time was needed to study dance with Atmokesowo. On the contrary, Wignyo Hambekso had a highly explosive character, was full of surprises and socially disorderly. The main characteristic of Wignyo Hambekso was to start a lesson with a discussion on various topics while drinking Jenewer and Bolsch or Bekonang rice wine. Needless to say, the atmosphere was warm, full of life and often the discussion touched upon pornographic subjects.
As a main student of Atmokesowo, I was truly afraid even of visiting Wignyo Hambekso, as their two characters were complete opposites. Nevertheless, I did once go with Bapak Sapardi H to visit Wignyo Hambekso, armed with a bottle of Jenewer which I took from my father's pharmacy. I was 17 years old at the time. Educated with strict discipline by both Atmokesowo and my own father, I had of course never drunk alcohol. However I was at that time in front of a great teacher, who was profoundly respected by all other dance teachers and my seniors, with the exception of my teacher Atmokesowo. And as I expected, he set a glass of Jenewer down in front of me. The dim lighting in the city of Solo at the time must have hidden my pale face. What I remember is that the lights appeared to go bright and dim and Wignyo Hambekso's body seemed to be leaning one side.
A number of dynamic, energetic dance movements were passed on to me by Wignyo Hambekso that evening, including a glebakan movement to begin the appearance of Klono Topeng. The next day, news was spread among dance circles that the evening before, Wignyo Hambekso had opened up his bothekan of ancient dances. Bothekan can be explained as a collection or hoard of antiques or a treasure cave containing secret old belongings. Wignyo Hambekso alone knew the secret. Of course, the longer I studied dance, the more I realized that Wignyo Hambekso was not the guard of a secret cave, who shared out his collection of vocabulary of patterns and repertoire of ancient dances, but in fact every time he became drunk, he was free from the restraints of social order and free from the sin of going against the norms of society. With his creativity, therefore, he created new patterns, not merely memorizing ancient dances from his secret hoard. This was the reason that the Solo dance community was constantly amazed, as there seemed to be no end to the ancient belongings he kept.
I once observed this creative process of the drunken spirit when Bandoro Pangeran Haryo Cokrokusumo invited Wignyo Hambekso to teach his son, BRM. Kanapi, to dance the character King Niwata Kawaca in love. The cokli movement (which can be associated with kecocok peli or penetration of the penis) is a blatant sexual expression, as blatant as the tantric carvings at Sukuh Temple. Tantric expression in Javanese art can also be traced back to the Centini manuscript, an important work by scholars of the kraton in the 17th/18th centuries.
A dancer has the opportunity to interpret movements freely and channel his or her inner feelings with expression. In the genre Wayang Wong, dance-drama which uses a lot of dialogue to convey the theme of the story and the expression of characters, the dancers are given more space. The character of the actor and dancer often stands out more than their patterns of movement. In this aspect, the character often suddenly feels as though it has created the movements for its own body. The Wayang Wong dancer, Rusman, was representative of this. Rusman's movements were full of tension, expressive with pantomimic dance patterns. His flying scene often gave rise to ridicule from teachers of the kraton, who said it was like a dog urinating, as he raised his right arm and leg. On the other hand, when his left arm and leg were raised, his right side was inert, used as a support. Those from outside the kraton in general enjoyed and praised Rusman, including President Soekarno. Rusman's portrayal of a romantic knight suddenly became an image of the movement of romanticism in nationalism, as an anti-colonial movement. Rusman and Soekarno were creators of an icon which could incite the masses. In another dimension, the art of dance still has a role to play in the imagery of feelings to create an ideal image for society. From calm, it can move to excitement, full of hysteria euphoria.
The room for movement of an individual in tradition often creates a challenge or stimulate which emerges from a situation outside the character itself. As one of the main students of Kusumo Kesowo, I saw many dance creations arising from orders by the princes, who at the time still had a privileged status of both nobility and economy, as land reforms had yet to come into practice. Between 1957 and 1961, Kusumo Kesowo received commissions from several princes, in which I was involved as the main dancer.
When his daughter got married, BPH. Cokrokusumo presented a dance with the theme Gatutkaca Priyombodo in the war of the flowers against the giant Cakil Gendir Penjalin and Bragalbo. Gatotkaca was danced by the son of BPH. Cokrokusumo, Joko Kanapi, and I played the character of Priyambodo. The performance took place in the ndalem Sasono Mulyo, which was in the complex of the Kasunanan kraron (Baluwari). One of the unique aspects of this event was that it was the first time the punokawan. Senar, Gareng, Petruk, Bagong, were invited from the Sriwedari Wayang Wong group. As I remember, Petruk was played by Surono, who was famous at the time, and who purposely teased me in my role as Priyambodo, who had to remain silent. My body shook as I suppressed the laughter, which of course made the audience laugh.
On another occasion, when Kanjeng Brotodiningrat's daughter got married, he asked Kusumo Kesowo to present the theme of Wiro Pratomo, a wireng with four characters dancing at the same time in the same gending. The four characters are Kokrosono, Noroyono, Kongso Dewo and Suratimontro. I player the role of Noroyono.
Kanjeng Wuryaningrat, a prince who was active in the national movement and whose house has now become the Danarhadi batik museum on the main road Slamet Riyadi in Solo, was inclined to a more poetical taste. He asked Kusumo Kesowo to perform the wireng Sancoyo versus Kusumowicitro, a wireng performed by two dancers with the styles gagahan (heroic) and alusan (refined). Joko Kanapi, the son of Kanjeng Cokrokusumo, performed Sancoyo and I performed the refined Kusumowicitro. This wireng is a wireng geng, which is highly complex, full of variation and takes around 55 minutes to perform.
Kanjeng Hadi Wijoyo was a prince who was a pioneer in the field of education and founded the Saraswati University, the first private university in Solo. On one anniversary of its foundation day, he asked Kusumo Kesowo to create a dance with the theme Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge in the Patheon of Hindu gods and goddess. On this occasion, I danced the alusan with Maruti, who played the role of a peacock, a creature always associated with the goddess of knowledge, as the eagle is with Wisnu.
So this is how I was, designated by my teachers as an alusan dancer. My body was prepared and disciplined only to perform genres, style, patterns and rhythms which flowed, and ultimately it was hoped that this would influence my attitude of controlling my emotions.
However reality came to prove the opposite. In 1961, when the Ramayana Prambanan was first proclaimed, my teacher Kusumo Kesowo was once again given the honour of acting as the central figure in the creative process. During the preparations and rehearsals, everyone in Solo, including the princes, was sure that I would be given the role of Rama as I was the only young alusan dancer in Kusumo Kesowo's school. Throughout the city of Solo, I was the only person known as an alusan dancer, apart from S. Maridi, whose age was already senior and for that reason was no longer appropriate as a dancer. However, outside everyone's expectations, the Ramayana committee had another candidate, someone who had not long been studying dance, especially for a role of alus dance. Despite his looks and social status, the ability of this person as a dancer was not good enough to be called a main dancer. But I believe this is one side of traditional dance, which sometimes appears in a large project, which is not only concerned with artistic matters but also with social bureaucracy.
There is one special event I will never forget, when one evening my teacher Kusumo Kesowo summoned me to his house. What was unusual was he called me very late at night, around 1.30 in the morning, and what was also unusual was that he called me to his bedroom and asked me to sit cross-legged face to face with him on the bed. After a long time of quiet, almost as if meditating, he began to speak: "As usual, for important or serious (wigati) matters in the process of creating a dance, I always consult with my elders and especially, (he paused quite some time). sampeyan ndalem kaping sedoso (meaning Paku Buwono X, who was long deceased). In this spiritual encounter, I was told that the person appropriate for dancing Hanuman is none other than yourself......". The night felt even lonelier when my teacher finished talking and closed his eyes once again. I saw that the corners of his eyes were damp and I too shed tears. From his attitude, with his arms folded and his eyes closed, it was clear to me that he could say no more. So I quietly stepped down from the bed, walked out of the gates and followed the road back into the lonely night on my bicycle. Never before had I felt so alone on the road which was always deserted, in the passageway between high walls of baluwari.
My teacher, who had always forbidden me to dance gagah or kasar dance, and had created me so as never to come into contact with the world of dance outside his own school, had suddenly thrown me into a strange situation: " I must dance a dance which I had never been taught and did not know who to ask". In other words, I, who had already become a prima donna, had to go back to being a beginner. From the point of view of dance technique, the Solo style monkey dance is very poor. The son of Kusumo Kesowo, who was known only as a teacher for junior and senior school children, taught me a number of movements which, due to the lack of variety in the Solo monkey dance, he combined with a few Yogya style movements.
Of course because I had already experienced the perfection and intensity of alusan style, the movements of this new style felt perfunctory and easy. But no-one cared at the time, as the main focus was how to transfer the Srimpi and bedhaya styles to become a large ensemble on a spectacular stage measuring 40 x 13 meters, or to transfer the Bondoyudo to become a huge dance with a large ensemble of monkeys. These feelings of loneliness and indifference encouraged me in a strange place without a master, without norms and without format. The result of this was that there was no Hanuman dance, only Sardono. With this freedom, I was more interested in imitating balletic poses and movement from the character Tarzan I had seen in the Edgar Rice Burroughs comic. And entirely without my teacher's knowledge, everyday for months I imitated these poses at home in front of an old cupboard with a large oval mirror. Since I was a boy, I had watched my father perform taiso exercises in front of this mirror. And as it turned out, I was quickly and instinctively able to imitate the movements. Only now, I was imitating the Tarzan movements and this I did after school before my father returned from the office.
The Tarzan poses, especially when fighting, always had one leg bent, as in a plie pose, with the other leg straight like a strong basic stance, and the body inclined as a continuation of the straight leg. The arms were extended at full stretch, giving the impression of lengthening the body. In another pose, while swinging from the branches of a tree, he was clearly imitating the pose of a monkey, so that his picture or gesticulations effectively expressed an ape-man. Was this not Hanuman in an alternative version? These asymmetrical and expressive poses, when compared with tamcep in Javanese Solo style dance, of course surprised the audience, who were used to the Javanese tradition. The audience liked this asymmetrical position of the legs, as this basic silat stance enabled an accumulation of energy, which could explode with high leaps or leaps whilst running, making it seems as though Hanuman was everywhere, even though the stage was enormous.
A pair of teachers, often known as mas Bud... (though he was already old) and pak Wiro Tekek, provided the basic silat movements which originated from the basic stance of alusan dance movements. Pak Wiro Tekek himself introduced a number of movements such as a kicking bird and pouncing tiger. The muscle coordination required to imitate these different animal movements truly provided the opportunity to break free from the codification patterns of court dance. With this freedom given, I unconsciously shifted my focus to the details of muscle use and stretching by putting the suppleness of the body to maximum use. The area of movement included rolling the body, lying on one's front and back, tightening the stomach muscles to strengthen the body like a monkey, which was often the main movement. Therefore, mimicry of the movement of primates was the main theme for the movement.
This approach appears to be extremely naive. However, as my body was trained in the complex patterns of alusan movement and various patterns of silat, the skill required for the speed of contracting the muscles for stability or balance and coordination of movement and balance between virtuoso and spectacular movements, and intense details of different parts of the body, provided a wealth of media for inner expression. The movements enabled the expression of emotions to emerge, which were felt as a spontaneous expression. This was because I had often felt the corporal impulses or life, or survival instincts of the body's muscles, when a surge of bodily emotions brought me to a dangerous area, often felt as a life and death experience. This experience was often practiced in silat, not only when performing the battle scene between Hanuman and the giant. The same thing occurred when impulses of need and expression brought my body up on the high diving wall of the stage, or instinctively ran along the thin wall, which was of course very dangerous. Or, when incited by a surge of expression with the ensemble of dancers, the movements physically filled the space and circled in time after time until my energy levels had almost run out. All of this created a bodily expression which was quite different to the controlled use of the body in patterns of Javanese court dance. The picture of anatomical graphic patterns in the Tarzan book also increased the distance from the patterns of the kraton.
Like a journey, this search without a teacher left me lost in the forest but I also discovered a new way to use the body. The way of moving like a primate, apart from the fact that the muscles of my body had undergone a pattern of survival from silat, the theme of the ape-man from the character of Hanuman was the main stimulus for this searching orientation for patterns of movement. Hanuman is human but an ape, or an ape with a character and soul of a heavenly being. This theme provides much room for interpretation, which enables the dancer to touch on consciousness in various levels of consciousness, whether meditative contemplation, a display of expressive emotion, or corporal acrobatics.
In the world of Javanese and Balinese wayang, which is influenced by Hinduism, the figure of Hanuman has an important role. He is important on all levels of relationships with the gods, relationships between the knights, and often changes to become merely a monkey when slipping into the garden of Soka in Alengka. He reflects the dynamic movements of the soul and constantly shifts between and falls and rises from various levels of consciousness, like a human. Perhaps because of this, this figure strongly attracts animal and human instincts and heavenly peace, mixed together and complementing one another. Strangely, a figure similar to Hanuman is also found in the Buddhist epic and is known by the name of Soen Go Kong, who accompanies the Bhiku or Buddhist priest in his search for the holy book of Buddha. Both Hanuman and Soen Go Kong are human apes, who often display their divine powers, and are even able to defeat several of the gods, as one of their spiritual levels is higher and able to see the truth in a clearer light than the gods. The opinion which sees man as the seeker of truth in a continual process, rising and falling from various spiritual levels, is of course the closest portrait of man himself, rather than the god Rama or the Bhiku. Needless to say, audiences and readers of the story are very fond of this character....
This parallel between Soen Go Kong and Hanuman once again raises the question whether Javanese syncretism,which unites Shiwa Buddha, also refers to the practice of performing arts. The theme of the large-scale narration wira carita of the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabarata is presented in a highly contemplative performance with a principle of detachment. There are also other differences, where in India Rama's army use monkeys as the main theme, in Indonesia, Java and Bali this is not the case. In Javanese and Balinese dance-drama, Rama's army is made up of almost all animals from the animal kingdom. In the Buddhist story, Soen Go Kong is also accompanied by other animal forms, while in Java and Bali, there are also Cucak Rawun 9 birds, Kapi Sraba 9 crocodiles, Kapi Mendo 9 sheep, Kapi Cacing 9 worms, and so on. This may be due to the fact that the Javanese and Balinese courts are also agricultural courts, not courts of business. In wayang wong, Tejokulo Bali, which is still closely connected with religious ceremonies, there are more than 70 masked characters representing various kinds of animals.
As a comparison, in the Hudok dance of the Dayak Kenyah in inland Kalimantan, there are also dozens of kinds of animal masks, although they do not know the Ramayana story. In the Hudok dance, the dragon mask has a high spiritual position. One explanation for this is that the rivers of Kalimantan, especially Mahakan, create the image of a dragon, in particular because the currents of the smaller rivers often change direction, due to the nature of the soil and the high fluctuation of the tide. This natural phenomenon is believed to be an important mythological animal as it directly affects the lives of the Dayak community, who often have to move due to the changes in current. These currents often create meander or small lakes so the rivers both provide a livelihood and also fierce like a dragon.
It would be interesting to research into whether, with the same sensitivity in reading nature, the Javanese and Balinese farmers created an art resulting from the contact of local religions and larger Hindu and Buddhist religions, which then produced themes of biodiversity such as are expressed in the Ramayana. In the process of interpretation such as I experienced as a dancer of Hanuman, the dance movements enabled me to feel a kinetic empathy when watching dances with a theme if primates in their own habitat, in the tropical rainforests of Kalimantan,and in the jungle of the Asmat people and highlands of Java Wijaya with the Dani community. The natural ways of moving the body and producing sound seem to be merely a continuation of the movements of the ape-man in the theme of Hanuman. The pleasure of shaking one's body, and hearing the bells ringing on the legs while dressed in a Hanuman monkey costume is truly a captivating pleasure for young dancers, as it was for myself at the time.
Meanwhile, the dance teachers who did not know the origins of these movements, as acknowledged by the drunken god, Wignyo Hambekso, the literary expert, Sumodarmoko from the kraton, Kusumo Kesowo, and other pini sepuh or elders, often said after a performance that when I was dancing and creating strange new movements, they felt that an ancestral spirit had entered my body, without telling me who it was. I did not tell them where these strange movements had come from as none of them had read the book Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. None of this was important, however just as whether Wignyo Hambekso's treasure cave really existed and was he the owner of the only key. Or whether there ware really many treasure caves and many keys which could open them.
Talking of caves, there are many caves in Indonesia which were used as sites for ancient man to dance, some of which have ancient drawings on the walls. In Makasar and also Irian, we can imagine this from the findings of bones and hunting tools belonging to Homo Soloensis or Pitecanthropus Erectus, who lived one million five hundred years ago in the Solo river, now the center of Java culture. It is a fact that he no longer lives but when I saw a performance of Kecak dance in Bali for the first time, it was clear that the appearance of the palms and fingers of Kecak were like an expression of ancient times drawn on the walls of these caves. Similarly, the calls and sounds were an expression of survival and primitiveness. The sounds and calls were produced as a direct response if their muscle pressure from the movements performed. What I saw in Kecak became more real when I began to explore the forests in Irian Jaya.
Over the past 15 years, I have become greatly interested in possibilities of developing sound techniques for dancers, at least for myself and a number of other dancers who work with me. The beginning of this awareness struck me while exploring in Irian Jaya, especially among the Asmat villages. When dancing, the Asmat people produce more expression from their own voices than from the musical instruments. I spent the first few days intensively imitating their singing. But later I became more interested in how they produced the volume and connection with movement, and the type of sound produced rather than the melody.
Traveling from village to village in a small boat, on which I can only sit hours, between 4 and 6 hours ...
In my boredom, I continually trained my voice, wailing in the quietness of the forest. This wailing reminded me of the way in which wolves or wild dogs wail. long and soft, as if the sound is coming from their stomachs. The Asmat people not only wail when they are dancing but also sometimes while they sleep. I will never forget the time when I was sleeping in a hut in the forest with my Asmat friends. In the middle of the night, I awoke to the stillness and quiet of the forest. Everyone else was asleep and it was pitch black. Suddenly, in the dim light, someone woke up, wailing loud, then lay back down when he had run out of breath. The next thing I heard was his snoring, and in a few moments the forest was quiet again.
This wailing instinct seems to be one way of declaring survival in the forests. Perhaps this is the instinct needed to stay alive, as animals often approach people as they sleep. What is clear is that it is not simply a way of singing to express feelings or emotions but more an instinct for survival. It is closer to the need to breath in a different way. Maybe there are ways of breathing that are important for survival and are realized in a way of producing sound. Or, this way of producing sound determines the method of breathing. The method of breathing ultimately determines the method and meaning of body movements.
The way in which the Asmat people produce sound and move seem to be linked with the need to carry out ceremonies which go on through the night and continue for days. They are also related to the need to move body in a particular way in order to remain stable while standing to row their small boats. And they really look as though they are dancing rather than rowing a boat. The ways of producing sound, which also produce expressive movements, and are also functional for living on a boat for a community which lives in a marshy area, are also one of the main characteristics of Asmat art.
On the contrary, the Dani people, who live in the highlands, do not have any instruments at all. They have only their way of moving and producing sound, which are more complex than the Asmat people. One example of how the Dani people produce sound not only as a form of expression, but also with a functional reason, can be seen when they stand on top of a high rock, control their stomach and back muscles while holding both hands straight up, and throw out a strong, sharp sound. The sound is like an arrow shooting across the wide open space and reaching a village far away on the other side of the plateau. Therefore, it is clear that in addition to an expressive value, there is also an ecological value, which is a result of the genetic adaptation and transformation of the Dani community with the natural environment of the highland plateau of Java Wijaya mountain.
There is another example which shows the changes in gesticulation of the village inhabitants. When the sun has almost disappeared, everyone bends over, crossing their arms and protecting the chest with both the palms of their hands resting on their shoulders. In this way, they overcome the cold weather which begins to stretch across the highland. As they are without clothing, the way in which parts of their body are placed functions as a substitute for clothes to warm the body. This is also the case with the way they walk, which changes in tempo to increase body temperature and fight off the cold weather.
Methods of human survival in relation to the local nature environment can also be seen in the dances of the Dayak community in the Kalimantan hinterland region. The position of the feet, which always stand on tiptoes or on the ends of feet, is a way of placing the whole body in a dynamic position, ready to leap at any moment. This is mainly because the Dayak community spends a lot of time wandering through the forests which are full of insects and thorns. It is also a way of moving without creating a sound, so that a hunted animal is not aware of their presence, as hunted animals are a source of protein important for man's survival in the middle of the forest.
When man began to conquer his natural environment, and the man-made social and physical environments increasingly replaced the natural environment, his challenges also changed. Challenges were no longer the dangers and survival in the natural forest, but rather the complexity of social problems he had created himself. Human movements became increasingly created from a desire to protect oneself from the problems of mankind itself. The process became more introspective than expressive. The violence and harshness of nature and animals suddenly appear as an abstract form, which is seen more as a negative character in oneself or also as a negative reality in people around us, both in the smaller family environment and in a wider social environment. Body movements become more a statement with a philosophical or psychological value than an ecological value. The art of dance, therefore, moves around the translation of more abstract ideas about society and concepts of nature, about journeys and man's world after death. Yet even now we still hear the roaring of dinosaurs in our brain's cell (Carl Sagan).
Solo, August 2001
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