Tag Archives: SIPFest 2018

Traces of cross gender in Indonesian traditional dance

SIPFest 2018 is a performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in conjunction with the art center’s tenth anniversary. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 4 August 2018 onwards until early September. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2018 banner found in think archipelago website.


Didik Nini Thowok
Didik Nini Thowok in SIPFest 2018, Jakarta, 7 August. Photograph by Witjak Widhi Cahya, courtesy of Komunitas Salihara

It is likely to spark controversy whenever such an issue is brought up amid the majority religious people at the present Indonesia, but cross gender has been a part of the traditional performances across the archipelago which now become the sovereignty of the country.

Dancer cum choreographer Didik Nini Thowok, a 1982 graduate of Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) in Yogyakarta, whose birth name Didik Hadiprayitno, and who has carved a name on the short list of a patron of cross gender dance remains unshaken by the prevailing sentiment.

He is adamant at preserving cross gender dances in many of his works. One of them was presented in a lecture-performance in SIPFest 2018, Jakarta.

Moderated by Joned Suryatmoko, Didik’s unabated traditional dances and his ability to embody the female character dazzled the audience. All the more precious was his extensive research on cross gender traditional dance shared to public in one occassion. It revealed that the issue is not a new, abhorrent influence. It has thrived in the society before long.

He listed references to cross gender cultural and historical presence in a number of Javanese masked dances, Ludruk, Ronggeng, Balinese theatrical dance, Tari Gandrung, Buginese ritual, and in current times, the cabaret-styled Oyot Godhong in Yogyakarta, whose performers are mostly ISI students.

The routinely-held grass-root entertainment often involves  comedy show and lypsincing, savoring popular songs local and foreign-alike.

In comparison to European classic piece Swan Lake, the humorous Trockadero Ballet,  the Indian Stree Vesham where men perform as women similar to Japanese Kabuki, or the opposite movement of Takarazuka where women perform as men like the Chinese Yueju Opera, and mask dances in many Asian countries, Indonesia has a variety of cross-gender performance of its own, apparent across social groups, from grass root level to the royal castes, from entertainment to rituals, as follow:

  1. Langendriyan, a Javanese Opera performed in the palaces of Yogyakarta sultanate as well as in Surakarta. The opera played in both kingdoms differ in the gender. While the opera group in Yogyakarta consisted of men, the Langendriyan in Mangkunegaran Surakarta was performed by all women dancers.
  2. Wayang Wong, an epic Mahabarata-inspired theatrical dance which reached its zenith in 20th century, also performed before the sultanates of Yogyakarta and Surakarta
  3. Tari Golek, performed following Wayang Kulit
  4. Tari Topeng Cirebon, a female-led mask dance impersonating male character originating from the west coast of Java, such as in Palimanan and Indramayu
  5. The folk performing arts of Wari Lais, whose history can be traced in Cirebon, Cilacap, and Lasem
  6. The popular Ronggeng in Banyumas, which was later called Lengger Banyumas, where female dancer staged Tari Baladewan of male character to accompany local peasant ritual
  7. Lengger Wonosobo, whose origin dated back to Hindu era, performed by male dancers impersonating female eroticism
  8. A play and mask dance of Malang, called Tari Beskalan Putri Malangan, derived from folk tale Panji and played by male impersonators, to accompany ritual ceremony
  9. Ludruk Tutik Bintang Timur from Surabaya, a famous Ludruk group in 1950s, famous for the play Sarip Tambakyoso, a tale of indigenous heroism during the Dutch colonization
  10. Tari Gandrung Banyuwangi, documenting male dancers with female costumes holding drum and violin
  11. Drama Gambuh of Bali, influenced by cross-gender performances of predominantly-Hindu India. It is common to see such type of dance in Hindu society, where one of the goddess Shiva is depicted half male and half female. In Bali, other dances of similar fashion are , Legong Muani, Nandir, Trunajaya, Panji Semirang, Wiranata, Margapati, and so on, making it a land of opportunity for artists to thrive freely, such as dance group Sekaa Gong Kebyar Wanita, Topeng Wanita, Kecak Wanita, Gambuh Muani, and Arja Muani. (Muani means male).
  12. Folk theatrical dance Randai, whose origin can be traced in Padang, West Sumatra. Randai dance required a night-long performance, which explained why dancers are all males replacing the female dancers who are supposed to play their characters by nature due to the local customs of deriding women seen outside homes at night. Ronggeng is an acculturation of Javanese and Sumatran culture, hence the resemblance of Ronggeng and Randai.
  13. The sacred ritual Bissu in South Sulawesi, a tradition of Buginese as written in epic La Galigo. Performed with violent content by male monks, Bissu involve feverish dance and sing to the state of possessed-like and result in self-inflicted stabbing to limbs.

Jim Lim’s old tale of contemporary theater

SIPFest 2018 is a performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in conjunction with the art center’s tenth anniversary. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 4 August 2018 onwards until early September. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2018 banner found in think archipelago website.


Indonesia’s theater legendary Jim Adhi Limas, also known as Jim Lim, delivered a lecture on the early development of contemporary theater in the late 50s, and a performance with Wawan Sofwan and Joind Bayuwinanda in SIPFest 2018.

Dubbed as the founder of Indonesian contemporary theater, Jim Lim was credited for being one of seven founders of Studiklub Teater Bandung (STB), 1958, besides university colleagues Suyatna Anirun, Thio Tjong Gie, Tin Srikartini, Sutardjo A., Wiramihardja, Adrian Kahar, and a journalist Soeharmono Tjitrosuwarno.

Led by Jim and Suyatna, the country’s oldest modern theater club had a mission to promote the not so popular subculture at the time. Jim directed their debut performance Jayaprana, playing Raja Buleleng Anak Agung Gde Jelantik, and Suyatna as I Gusti Ketut Putus. Some of the archives were presented in the lecture program Omongobrolan in Komunitas Salihara.

The former headed for France in 1967 on scholarship program, and decided to stay there ever since, leaving Suyatna to lead the band alone, and had continuously made prolific works in decades that follow, such as Karto Loewak, the adaptation of Ben Jhonson’s Volvone (1973), and Kavia Sang Natha from Shakespeare’s King Lear (2009).

Not only performing foreign scripts by Goethe, Chekov, Moliere, Schiller, H Von Kliest, or Tennesee Williams, STB had popularized local scripts by Ajip Rosidi, Utuy T. Sontani, Misbach J Biran, Kirjomulyo, Saini KM, and Bakdi Sumanto.

Jim’s constant presence in French filmography also made him continuously appear since 1973 until recent time, where he was known for Diva (1981), Gwendoline (1984), the Bitter Moon (1992), un Amour de Sorcière (1997). His latest act was in 2017 sci-fi movie Les aventures de Spirou et Fantasio. 

In his homecoming interview in early 2018, the 80 year-old Jim said that having started in theater made him easier to adapt in film industry, but might not be vice versa.

Wawan Sofwan were among aspiring actors in Bandung who joined the theater club. He then founded Main Teater.

The birth of many modern theater groups in Bandung similar to Wawan’s Main Teater is claimed to have its partial origin in STB, namely Actor’s Unlimited (AUL), Laskar Panggung Bandung (LPB), Bandoengmooi, Teater Re-Publik, or the 25 years existence of Teater Bell.

Just like Nano Riantiarno’s Teater Koma, or the late W.S. Rendra’s Teater Bengkel, Jim’s and Suyatna’s STB shares the status as celebrated Indonesia’s modern theaters.

Omongobrolan at SIPFest 2018, Jakarta
From left: Joind Bayuwinanda, Wawan Sofwan, and Jim Adhi Limas, in a performance in SIPFest 2018, Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta, 12 August 2018

SIPFest 2018: a reference to universal humanism

SIPFest 2018 is a performing arts bienalle held by Komunitas Salihara in conjunction with the art center’s tenth anniversary. think archipelago is a proud media partner of the event which runs from 4 August 2018 onwards until early September. To see more of their programs, please click all the SIPFest 2018 banner found in think archipelago website.


Creating an exhibition in the awe-inspiring vicinity of Komunitas Salihara was both suitable and challenging to Jakarta-based sculptor Gabriel Aries Setiadi, whose artworks involving LEDs are among the three visual artists brandishing their new media art installation.

Together with Achmad Krisgatha and ARTJOG 2018 winner of Young Artist Award Meliantha Muliawan, they took part in three months preparation, from concluding survey to locate the spot for their artworks, to creating process by adapting to the architecture of Salihara, and the final step of installation which had taken them by surprise.

The result of the contemplation was what the artists aimed to share with the audience of Salihara International Performing Arts Festival 2018. “Artists should aim at facilitating the public through ideas,” Gabriel said before his arched light art gracing a silent corner of the second floor. More striking spot is Achmad’s giant blue LED installation hanging  cold and lonely at the apex, increasingly pervasive as the dusk fell upon visitors staring from the viewing deck of the third floor.

Curator Asikin Hasan who prides the art center he works in as the country’s best among other buildings of similar function by Ikatan Arsitek Indonesia, said that in its tenth year, Komunitas Salihara has progressed from a mere place of exhibit into a public space, and currently being a place to form discussion.

Themed Di seni senang, (Happy go artsy), the art space’s co-founder Nirwan Dewanto said SIPFest continues to be a small recreational party for the exceptionals. “The majority of our audience aged between 20-30 years old who fill the 220 seats at its most capacity with a different kind of art expectation. I think that entails critical discourse we have been nurturing here,” he said.

He added, “We do not simply invite Didik to have him dance here, but we want to raise the transgender issue often entailed in his dances.”

In a similar notion is choreographer Otniel Tasman chosen to perform Lengger, a dance only recently brought to light after being shunned for long in the place of its origin in Banyumas.

“I put honesty above everything else in my work, about how our culture perceive Lengger all this time, the discrimination those minority men face for dancing like women,” he said.

A theater by Rukman Rosadi, the Yogyakarta-based proficient director who gets less scrutiny, about Sjahrir, played by Rendra Bagus Pamungkas (starred in Wage as Wage Rudolf Supratman, 2017) talks in parralel about the universal value of being human.

Universal humanism, a non-violence and non-discriminatory movement since 1969 by its founder Mario Rodriguez Cobos, has always found a relevance in many of Salihara’s program, a necessary identity reminder especially at the onset of of religious extremism.

Among a plethora of programs, from visual art, theater, dance, music, to their latest addition, the art lecture, the SIPFest 2018 feature promising local and international artists alike to share the platform in Komunitas Salihara for a month ahead with names such as choreographer Lucy Guerin (Australia) whose Split won her the Helpmann Award in 2017, musical duo Quatuor Bozzini (Canada), Ju Percussion Group (Taiwan), Toccato Studio (Malaysia), Nassim Soleimanpour (Iran) , whose script read by Reza Rahadian an Sita Nursanti, master choreographer Jim Adhi Limas, dubbed the founder of Indonesian contemporary theater, and many more.