'Open': A requiem for a besieged nation
Yulia E Sudjatmiko and I Wayan Juniartha
The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, June 8, 2006
Out of a darkened space Cokorda Sawitri emerged. Fluidly she approached the stage as her high-pitched voice weaved poetry. The song was in Balinese. Yet its narration of confusion, of a fragmented soul, was so haunting that it broke through the language barrier.
"Sekadi toris mebalih wayang kliyang-kliyeng kapupungan," Sawitri lamented, likening herself to a stranger in a strange land, woozily disoriented by the place's disturbing characters.
Kneeling on the elevated stage, Dean Moss extended his hand to the approaching Sawitri. In a light, continuous movement he lifted her onto the stage. In an intimate embrace, they glided backward, cutting a host of black-clad dancers in two.
With their eyes locked on each other, Sawitri continued her melodious poetry. This time, the song was about Bubuksah and Gagak Aking, two spiritual brothers on two diverging spiritual paths. It was a story of differences, of conflicting beliefs and emotional separation.
It was a memorable scene. As the dancers split into three different groups and the song about separation filled the air, Sawitri and Dean Moss embraced each other tightly, admiring each other's faces, voices and gestures.
It was as if by doing so they could prevent the world around them from falling into rival pieces.
"I think that's the most important message of this aesthetic endeavor: that we must have the courage, and the love, to build a bridge between numerous contrasting elements and forces to ensure that humanity will not end in a savage act of self-destruction," said playwright Mas Ruscitadewi.
Titled Open, the dance performance on Tuesday night was the result of a creative collaboration between Sawitri's Denpasar-based Kelompok Tulus Ngayah and award-winning New York choreographer Dean Moss.
An alumnus of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Dean Moss is known for his aesthetic prowess in creating multidisciplinary and multimedia dance projects. His work Adventures in Assimilation received the Jury Award in the 1992 New York Expo of Short Film and Video and, in 1999, he won the coveted "Bessie" New York Dance and Performance Award for Spooky Action at a Distance.
Open is, in his own words, "a meditation on the film Swing Time (with Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers), quantum theory and identity."
"It is an 'in-progress' performance and not complete. Sawitri and I plan to create a larger performance based on these ideas. It will be more complex and in-depth. With some time and work I think we could make something extraordinary out of these ideas," he said.
"Once we've completed the larger, evening-length work, we will perform it at other art centers in Indonesia and perhaps even abroad, such as in Singapore and the United States," he added.
Open, which was co-produced by Kelompok Tulus Ngayah, Dean Moss and Yayasan Bali Purnati (the Bali Purnati Center for the Arts), bore several of Moss' trademarks, including the seamless incorporation of video images projected on a screen at the rear of the stage.
The work, performed at Ksirarnawa stage in Denpasar, dealt mostly with differences, tension, conflict and the ultimate importance of building a line of communication, literally and metaphorically. To some extent, it was a reflection of present-day Indonesia, a country besieged by sectarian conflicts, growing religious fundamentalism and natural calamities.
"It is a requiem for our nation, for what has taken place in Aceh and in Yogya and for the things, the anti-pornography bill for instance, that are going to take place," Sawitri said.
Despite all that, Sawitri and Dean Moss obviously have not lost faith in the power of hope, in humanity's ability to conduct peaceful dialogues, and in their fellow humans' courage to cross the bridge of differences.
Their faith was clearly reflected in the closing scene of the performance. All the dancers made a human chain before crisscrossing the stage, creating the illusion of a rejuvenating wave.
On the screen, an image of a telephone cord appeared. In unison, the dancers repeatedly yelled, "Hello?"
In was an open invitation to establish the bridge, to open a line of communication, to engage in dialogue.