Jailolo in Eko’s bold conception

web-banner-sipfest-on-think-archipelagoSIPFest 2016 is the fifth performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in Kompleks Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 1 October 2016 onwards until early November. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2016 banner found in think archipelago website.

Eko Supriyanto
Indonesia’s top choreographer Eko Supriyanto showcases his latest work Balabala, the second part of his Jailolo trilogy in SIPFest 2016, Jakarta. He considers local tradition as relevant and priceless in his contemporary dance.

Better to let go of the excessive reminiscence of his touring with a famous American pop star, or more prominently, a stint at a production of Disney’s musical that involved names such as Elton John, Hans Zimmer, and Tim Rice, all happened over 15 years ago.

Eko Supriyanto is at the top list of homegrown contemporary dance choreographers. So much he loves the diversity of tradition that make up what is now Indonesia that he draws the inspiration from ethnic groups traditional value and social setting, then reconceptualizes them in his work, such as clearly demonstrated in the Balabala.

The sequel of the so-called Jailolo trilogy is a testament to an extensive work of a former dancer who studied in ISI Surakarta in 1990, beginning with Cry Jailolo in 2014.

Eko continues to involve indigenous teenagers of Jailolo, North Maluku, whom he picked based on instincts, and later trained to perform a modern reinterpretation of local ritual, or, by today’s common definition, dance.

But the all-female dancers distinguishes Balabala from its prequel, where the local young boys took the spotlight, and enjoyed their fame in the world tour, a case that seemed to inspire their female peers to take part in this project.

Gender equality

Cry Jailolo and Balabala delved into social and environmental issues in the dancers native place. But as the former rises environmental concerns, the latter sheds light on gender equality.

And breaking the then impermeable norm was not without rejection. Eko admitted to take a careful approach for he did not want to be seen as a typically “Javanese invader” to the local community, for he aimed to deconstruct several dances into a brand new fusion entity.

He succeeded in bringing seasoned instructors of Cakalele, a native war dance that Balabala draws an inspiration from, and of which involves male only, to prepare the five girls undertaking the unprecedented challenge.

As if they were on the defensive by wielding shield in the face of their opponents, they exuded man-like vigor, the eyes of agression and caution at the same time, that fearless charm.

The world’s premiere, which served also as the summit program in SIPFest 2016, was just the beginning of the world tour spanning across countries in Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Maluku all-female dancers perform in Balabala by Eko Supriyanto at SIPFest 2016, Jakarta
All-female dancers from Jailolo, Maluku, perform in Balabala by Eko Supriyanto at SIPFest 2016, Jakarta. Molding these dancers-by-coincidence was more about soco-cultural approach and less about technical challenges, said Eko.

Cultural diversity

Talking about Indonesian contemporary dance in comparison with other countries, Eko proudly said that it mainly differs in the wealth of material derived from his home country’s diverse culture.

Such a conviction that makes him aware that tradition is not obsolete. On the contrary, “There is no gap between modern and traditional dance,” he said, confident in his way of working on new things with much likely a lot of reference to deep-rooted cultural values.

According to him, old tradition is very relevant in new exploration, as long as there is a willingness to make a revisit, and interpret it. “Contemporary is not a form, but a conception,” he said.

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