Modern Trends | Traditional Indonesian Dance and Drama is Today

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Event in Central Javanese palaces

Everywhere in great danger of being swamped by modern urban entertainmen: films, television, nightclubs, disco, etc. Event in Central Javanese palaces, the financial burden of maintaining dance and musical troupes is becoming too great, and though private companies do exist, Indonesians on the whole seem less inclined to support the old “palace” arts commercially.

The government has done its best to remedy the situation by establishing performing arts academies (ASTI) in various cities. Performances, however, are infrequent and often poorly funded. And there are few careers awaiting graduates of these academies. Despite this, many dedicated students attend them, and popular interst in the traditional performing arts does survive in certain areas. Tourism is now having a big impact by providing commercial demand for traditional dances, albeit not always in traditioanl setting (hotel poolsides, for instance). Bali is exceptional, in that tourism has here stimulated dance traditions that have always been very healthy. In Bali, every village has its own dance troupe, and these now have an impetus to improve and expand their repertoir for a steady schedule of tourist performances.
Dancers of the Barong in Batubulan village, for example, perform every morning for busloads of foreigners, then at night they often dance again in elaborate Topeng or Arja dramas before enthralled villagers at temple ceremonies.
A new generation of Indonesian choreographers, educated at the performing arts academies and familiar with western classical and modern dance, is also now at work. Since the 1950s, teachers such as Bagong Kussudiardjo in Yogya, Wayan Dibia in Bali and Sulawesian Wiwiek Siepala in Jakarta have been adapting traditional dance work for modern audiences.
One result has been the Sendratari (lit. art-drama-dance), essentially a traditional dance drama minus the dialogue but incorporating some modern movements and costumes. The first Sendratari, an adapted version of the Javanese wayang orang, was staged in the early 1960s, supposedly at the urging of a Cook’s -Tour operator. Today this Ramayana Ballet spectacular, with a cast of over 200, is performed over four nights around every full moon during the dry season months (June to September), on large stage erected in front of the elegant 9th century Prambanan temple complex.

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