Thursday, April 14, 2005


Artistic and Management Analysis of Indonesian Contemporary Dance:
New Development in Post Suharto Regime
Zulkifli bin Mohamad, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
I. Introduction
1. Indonesia Fabrics
Indonesia’s 250 million people with 300 ethnic groups in 17,000 islands certainly have a very rich culture and arts. A developing country like Indonesia has a big potential for the world economy. With Islam as its official religion, Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. Java Island has 50% of Indonesia’s population, and is divided into three main cultures – Central Java, West Java and East Java. To Java, especially Central Java, belongs the dominant group, especially during the Suharto Era. But while Jakarta is no doubt the capital city of contemporary, modern and new tradition arts, other cities also deserve attention.
2. Dance Writing
Except for the writings of Sal Murgianto and Edi Sedyawati and journalistic writings on dance and performance, there is little literature on contemporary dance. Murgianto and Sedyawati are in their fifties and sixties, mainly writing in Bahasa Indonesia, while young writers are mainly journalists covering different types of news in arts. Most Indonesian arts journalists were writing for the ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ newspapers and magazines and most of the writings were mainly descriptive rather than critical and analytical, and written in literary or creative style.
There is hardly any writing done on the subject of ‘Management of Dance’. Performing Arts Management as a field of study is still new in Indonesia, even in the capital city of Jakarta. The Jakarta Arts Institute just recently included the subject as one of the course programmes.
There is also no significant writing on young generation choreographers even four years after the fall of Suharto Regime. Most of the writings on contemporary choreographers are focused on the anthropology and historiography of artists during the Suharto Era – Sardono, Gumarang Sakti (Gusmiati Suid), Deddy Luthan, Retno Maruti, Bagong. Only choreographers living in the capital and really established ones are known to the national media. Young and upcoming choreographers outside the capital are only known among certain circles and small town media. Arts events outside Jakarta rarely get national media attention.
3. Change of Scene
Student demonstrations and the fall of Suharto Regime in 1998 have certainly changed the pattern of arts making and management. It has given the strength to many young artists and activists throughout the country. The established contemporary or new tradition arts of Indonesia were probably being created in Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta, Solo, Bandung and Padang through the existence of Sekolah Tinggi Seni (School of Arts) and Institut Seni Indonesia (Indonesian Arts Institute) and Institut Kesenian Jakarta(run by Jakarta City Council). After 1998, the situation has changed or about to change in many cities in Indonesia, not only because of new governments and their new party policies. The freedom of press launched by the President Abdul Rahman Wahid (Gusdur) and the decentralization of power and provincial autonomy or ‘Otonomi Daerah’ have given hope and helped develop the provinces. These developments gave rise to various events, new artists and activists not only in Jakarta, Bali, Yogya, Solo, Bandung and Padang but other islands, cities and towns.
4. Tourism
Tourism is another factor that is changing the function of Jakarta into being the centre for regional and international travel and at the same time expanding its attractions to include other Indonesian provinces. New development in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism are helping to develop the arts and culture alongside tourism, albeit with high resistance among some circle of artists and culture activists. After the change of government from GusDur to Megawati, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism remained and took over the functions of Culture Department from its earlier ministry, the Ministry of Education. The change has somehow affected the planning of cultural events organized by the Cultural Department and the city councils such as Jakarta City Council. Tourism is recognized as an important industry that could bring in hard cash to the country, not only for Indonesia but other Southeast Asian countries suffering from economic crisis and world economy.
5. Foreign Influence
Foreign embassies and foreign cultural centers in Jakarta also contributed to the development of arts and gathering of information. They include the British Council, Goethe Institute, French Cultural Centre, Italian Cultural Centre, Japan Foundation, Erasmus Huis of Dutch Government, and Indian Cultural Centre, among others; local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and international NGOs like Ford Foundation and United Nation agencies. There is also the newly established Cultural Unit at American Embassy, which opened in early 2003, with the photograph exhibition of September 11 Tragedy in New York.
6. Non-Governmental Work
Post Economic Crisis 1997 and Post Suharto Fall 1998 have witnessed the crossover of people working in the business industry moving on to do social works in education, environment, poverty, human rights, heritage, culture and arts. The crossover might have resulted, not only from the pressure to survive, but also the need to respond to the suffering of Indonesian society. As a result many new non-profit and non-governmental organizations sprung out in Jakarta and Indonesia, not to mention new magazines, newspaper and television channels. Existing NGOs changed and re-focused their works with new members from the young generations.
7. New Media
Greater press freedom during the management of Abdul Rahman Wahid (Gus Dur) opened up a new dimension to Indonesia life, resulting in many new media and worthy reading materials. Outlets for the internet, yahoo groups, chartrooms and SMS (short messages) sprouted all over the country, offering critical thinking in arts, culture and society.
Affiliations among young artists, journalists, cultural activists and cultural managers resulted in many new forms of ideas and information in the arts. Jakarta is not only offering official and established forms of arts but also the alternatives. Other cities began to rise to offer various forms of arts and culture. However, that does not guarantee stardom, comfort and patronage because as has been mentioned, only choreographers living in the capital and really established ones are known to the national media.
8. New Expression
The administration of Gus Dur was less restrictive, and gave space for free expression to minority groups like the Chinese, who were allowed to freely celebrate their Chinese New Year and other cultural activities. However, there are many incidents that occurred during the time of research which influenced its conduct and results. There were bloody incidents involving separatist movements and ethnic clashes in various provinces such as in Aceh, Maluku and Kalimantan, as well as the fallouts of the September 11 Tragedy, especially in a country with the biggest Muslim population in the world. Indonesia was also accused of hiding Muslim terrorists from the Middle East, which resulted in general anti-American and anti-Westerners public cleansings in Jakarta and Solo, followed by the Bali Bombing in October 2002 and the series of bombings in Jakarta. These were also accompanied by demonstrations and other forms of peaceful protest by the people of Indonesia and the media.
9. Emerging Art Form
Dance, theatre and cultural events are beginning to merge, especially when the arts, culture and tourism ministry are gathered under one umbrella. Tourism had positive and negative impacts, but the resistance to it keeps the arts afloat. This is partly due to the emergence of new arts activists working together in the management, sponsorship and audience development. No doubt they are also developing new dance choreographers, scholars and writers.
II. Conceptual/Theoretical/Methodological Framework
1. The relation between Arts and Management of Arts
Creative drive, leadership, and the ability to organize a group of people around a common goal remain the foundation on which all arts management is built. The traditional role of the artist-manager has been split into separate jobs. However, this split does not mean that the division or barrier must be erected between these two roles. Instead, the separation should be viewed in much the same way as the human brain functions: the two hemispheres are linked and communicate with each other while each side continues to do what it does best. (William J.Brynes: 15). And this is why the research on artistic and management aspects of Indonesian contemporary dance is important, as it is one of the pioneer studies in the field in the region.
Continued changes in society and the birth of more democratic forms of governments eventually led to changes that became the foundation of many modern organizations. Problems with financing, patronage and censorship also accompanied the growth in the arts. The additional arts forms created additional jobs for arts managers. (ibid: 27). The change of governments in Indonesia has certainly provided different fabrics for cultural development and the decision to study the situation is very timely.
Among the external factors that affect the environment are political, economic, cultural and social, demographic, technological and educational. Input factors that affect the arts organization include the audiences, board and staff members, other arts groups, the media, professional associations and consultants (ibid:48). To effectively manage change and operate a useful evaluation and assessment system, arts managers must identify the sources they will use for gathering information and must develop an ongoing process for evaluating the opportunities and threats facing the organization. The input factors are the information sources (ibid: 59).

2. What Does Contemporary Dance Mean in Indonesia?
The term "contemporary" has many meanings. It could refer to "modern dance" to some people and to the westerners, but present day dance includes modern and traditional elements subjected to strong improvisation techniques and re-interpretation.
Music and dance are inseparable companions of most drama in Southeast Asia. In all probability, drama is the youngest of the three performing arts and grew out earlier than music and dance forms. In some cases, music is so important we must liken a dramatic form to opera and in others, dance is so important we must properly speak of a form as dance-drama. (Brandon: 1967, 125). Despite the vicissitudes of contemporary history, Southeast Asia has unveiled and continues to unveil a formidable wealth in music, choreography and theatre. Consequently, the populations of this part of the world distinguish themselves from their immediate neighbors. They continue to be striking for their pursuit of extreme refinement and elaborate sophistication. (
Oxford gives definition of the word ‘contemporary’ as living, occurring at the same time, approximately equal in age, and following modern ideas or fashion in style or design. Mattani stated that in Thailand, contemporary theatre encompasses both classical dance-drama in modernized forms and styles as well as straight plays in prose or poetic prose on contemporary social and political themes. The former is mainly produced and performed by the National Theatre and National College of Dance and Music. The latter group is within the academic circles in universities and young intellectuals.
Edi Sedyawati stated (1998:111) that the term contemporary dance has been used to signify dances more recent than modern dance. Helly Minarti mentioned that the term ‘modern dance’ came to be known in Indonesia in the mid-1950s when some of the Java-based choreographers left for the US to train in modern dance technique. Among these were Bagong Kussudiardjo who studied at the Martha Graham School and Sardono W. Kusumo who took some classes with Jane Erdman – one of Graham’s students. Well-trained in Javanese classical court dance, both Kussudiardjo and Kusumo embarked on choreographing new dance pieces afterwards– interestingly not taking the technique they gained in the US; instead they were transforming the ‘spirit’ of American modern dance into their particular way of creating, i.e. the freer expression and exploration of new choreography.
3. The Research
In conducting this research, qualitative techniques were adopted. Secondary and primary research included face-to-face interview, performance observation and discussion. Studies were carried out in Java (Jakarta, Bandung, Jogjakarta, Solo), Sumatera (Padang, Bukit Tinggi, Pekan Baru), Bali (Denpasar, Ubud) dan Sulawesi (Ujung Pandang) within the period of 6 months starting from 13 Sept.– 30 Nov.2002 and 1 February – 12 June 2003.
The objectives of the research are:
to identify key people in dance such as choreographers, dance managers, dance historians and critics educators;
to identify sites of research and key institutions such as dance institutions, funders and policy makers i.e. government institutions for further studies;
to establish a network of scholars, artists, curators, critics, cultural workers and other informants who have done and continue to work on dance;
to identify other forms of arts and artists that influence the making of dance and the importance of scenography ( light, stage, costume, make-up and stage property);
to identify social, cultural, political and economic factors that influence the making of dance production;
to identify and suggest some vital concerns that would enable the development of dance knowledge and management in the region.
III. Research Findings and Analysis
First level of the research discovers that input sources or information gathered from
the affiliation with young arts journalists at Jakarta Post, Kompas, Koran Tempo, Jakartakini and Djakarta magazines, cultural activists and cultural managers at various foreign embassies and their cultural centres such as British Council, Goethe Institute, Dutch’s Erasmus Huis, French Cultural Centre, Italian Cultural Centre and Japan Foundation. Affiliation with MSPI (Masyarakat Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia – Indonesian Performing Arts Society) and networking with Jakarta Arts Institute, Indonesia Arts Institute (ISI) - Yogyakarta, Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia (STSI) Indonesia High School for the Arts – Solo, STSI Denpasar Bali, STSI, as well as ASF Cohort 3 Fellows made the information gathering more comprehensive.
The research also found that the fall of Suharto’s 32 years leadership in 1998 is considered one of the major catalysts to the development of democratization of arts and culture in Indonesia. From 1998 to 2003 there were a few major events at international and national levels that affected the contemporary dance scenario, including:
1. Abdul Rahman Wahid as Post Suharto President
2. Megawati Sukarno Putri as President, replacing Abdul Rahman Wahid
3. Tourism as important industry and the new Ministry of Culture and Tourism
4. The concept of ‘Provincial Autonomy’ launched by the government
5. September 11, 2001 Tragedy in New York
6. October 13, 2002 Bali Bombing
7. SARS epidemic
8. Afghanistan War and Iraq War
There are few artists who relate their works with the events or resulted from the event. Events 1 – 4 hardly affect the arts directly.
IV. Conclusions and Recommendations.
For conclusions and recommendations, please refer to appendices 1-8 for information on where research was conducted in these eight cities – Jakarta, Bandung, Jogja, Solo, Bali, Pekan Baru, Padang and Ujung Pandang. On top of the objectives of identifying and networking with dancers, choreographers, other related arts workers, arts institutions, funders and media, the process of identifying the external factors for arts environment came to be important. The discussion of ‘what is contemporary arts?’ is an important process of defining the scope of work in each city. The understanding of contemporary arts may be expressed differently from city to city. Common to all however is the notion of "contemporary" as simply meaning what is "present" and relevant.
Incidents like September 11 in New York in 2001, Bali Bombing, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and SARS epidemic adversely affect tourism, an important industry that directly affects the arts, especially when they are under the same ministry.
The study has observed the following patterns in the arts:
1. Budget cuts by the government has resulted in the birth of many independent arts festivals. It is proven that spending among the high and middle class society continues and part of the heavy spending is targeted on the arts, as a leisure and entertainment activity. The festival is one of the ways to find new talents, getting sponsors and media attention even during bad economic times. New festivals include JakArt in Jakarta, Solo Dance Festival and Female Choreographer Festival in Solo, Jogjakarta International Arts Festival, Contemporary Dance Festival in Pekan Baru Riau and Makasar Art Forum get a lot of attention from the media and sponsorship came in many forms – local government, foreign funding, multinational and local companies. The festival also witnessed the diversity of work as well as exchange of culture.
2. During the time also many new solo artists/ dancers appeared as well as established artists doing solo work. This is partly due to unavailable resources and budget cuts, making it difficult to make big work. Smaller venues like Goethe House, TUK, Japan Foundation space in Jakarta, Sonoseni in Solo, and so on are able to stage solo works. Most of the time the works presented were more expressive, avant-garde and modern.
3. New performance venues ranging from 100 to 400 audience capacity emerged in institutions like Goethe House, TUK, STSI Auditorium, and Sonoseni in Solo, and Gelanggang Seni in Pekan Baru. TUK has the smallest and most informal black box style, while Japan Foundation space is a non-fix space. The same is true with Gelanggang Seni in Pekan Baru, the 250-capacity Goethe House and the 400-capacity STSI Auditorium, which have proscenium style auditoriums. Soloseni has a more traditional studio style.
The various new festivals also broke down the old style of performance spaces. JakArt for instance, looked for new performance and exhibition space in Jakarta, and chose the Prison Building rather the formal spaces at the ASEAN Secretariat. The concept is most probably taken from the site specific performance and street performance, which requires less management, maintenance and budget. Though the concept is seen as a new way of performance, probably derived from the visual arts genre, its informality is certainly not new in many Asian cities.
4. The rise of young choreographers is significant either from the many festivals or solo works presented at new and smaller venues. Solo work requires shorter periods of time to prepare, smaller works and certainly less budget. This art form could either be part of festival or ensemble and it is becoming a trendy presentation among young audiences.
5. During the unstable political environment and uncertain economic condition, many creative individuals are seeking better solutions for arts management and production. Many new organizations, independent and freelance managers arise due to less full time work for the arts, more flexible hours, more space for freedom of expression, and smaller, easy to handle organizations. These individuals work for few projects in few different productions that allow the more flexible movement of personnel and less maintenance costs.
6. The cross over of people from the corporate sector to non-profit organizations, doing social work in education, health and arts became more familiar in the uncertain economy.
7. Performing, visual and other arts are becoming more integrated, and there are more collaborations among artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, digital and information technology wizards.
The rise of new arts establishments and new artists does not mean that more established artists took the back seat. They have invented new ideas and theories of survival. Among them are:
1. Sardono Kusomo, a contemporary dance practitioner who is also an environmental and heritage activist, created a centre for multiarts activities in Solo called ‘Sonoseni’. He also started teaching at STSI graduate programme and at Asian Contemporary Studio programme in Singapore. His work continuously connects to global issues that grab the attention of the world media.
2. EKI (Eksotika Karmawibangga Indonesia) is a dance group created as a sub-group of a Buddhist group near Jakarta. The choreographer, Rusdi, trained in London and had been doing dance work on the issue of youth problems. But recently, after the freedom expression granted to of Chinese culture during the presidency of Abdul Rahman Wahid, EKI started to discover his ethnic background as his artistic inspiration. The group also toured their works to other cities outside Jakarta.
3. Boi G.Sakti took over the leadership of Gumarang Sakti after his mother Gusmiati Suid passed away in 2001. This group continues to be popular and is becoming more hip among young audience though their signature Minang spirit, the gender sensitive, women-issue based ‘Merantau’(travel-exile) spirit. The production is also full of Asian aesthetics presented in the most sophisticated modern techniques in their scenography. Boi continues to discover new frontiers in Asia, Europe and America.
4. Purnati Arts Centre in Bali is a new arts centre, but Restu Imansari is an established player, and has been networking with many international performing arts venues around the world. She is niching her fame with prestigious world class names like Robert Wilson.
Among others, this paper recommends that a forum among Indonesian arts workers be held, to discuss trends and patterns of development, ecology of change and adaptation in the arts, and to concretize future plans. The performing arts industry in the 21st century is becoming more and more sophisticated in its education, publication, dissemination and management, even with limitations. New modern and contemporary performing arts are developing at its own pace and process of adopting and adapting within the Indonesia identity.
One of the issues involves the ‘Performing arts versus Performance Art’. Information Technology and multimedia have affected the format of presenting a play. Productions incorporate three different epics and legends from different times but presented in the same space of time and place with interjection and overlapping of dialogues. The same format of presentation is also happening in graphic design where texts and visuals overlap and hyperlink with text and visual. Telecommunication technology has incorporated text, voice and visual and this is becoming part of daily life. Music has become more than just rhythm and singing the lyrics but also about talking, where sound is part of ambience setting. Music now involves layers of lyrics, songs of old and new melody compacted into one. Visuals have become the main theme and "in" thing in performing. Text could be invisible, and words are not necessarily spoken but danced and layered in visual effects – lighting, text, photographic and video projection. This is the future of performance with a young generation exposed to new ways of thinking; to new information technologies like the internet, sms; and new types of education, leisure and entertainment. Below is a list of names of people with new ideas, which could be interesting for special forum of arts practitioners.
a. ‘Waktu Batu’: Multimedia Theatre, Teater Garasi, - Yudi Ahmad, Yogyakarta
b. Presenting Arts for Contemporary Audience, PT Globar Jelang – Jilal Mardhani, Jakarta
c. ‘Merenung Bulan’, Scenography of Dance, Gumarang Shakti – Boi G.Shakti, Jakarta
d. ‘Modus Operandi’, A Theatre of Performance Art - Yogyakarta
e. Composing Music for New Indonesia – Djaduk Feryanto, Yogyakarta.
f. Gong and Blonk: Media, Design and Publication for Arts – Gambloh and Blonk, Solo/ Yogyakarta.
g. ‘Teater Gedag-Gedig’: Theatre for Community – Hanindawan, Solo.
h. Indonesian Contemporary Dance Centre, Development of Arts, Criticism and Education – Helly Minarti, Jakarta.


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