Purwakanthi seeks to preserve classic Surakartan Javanese dances in Jakarta

Dozens of women dressed in green-colored shirts and kain jarik (traditional Javanese cloth) were lining up inside Balai Sarwono, a building in the Joglo @ Kemang area in South Jakarta on May 28. All members of the Purwakanthi community were waiting their turn to take the stage, performing dances they had practiced for weeks, months even.

Among them was Helena Wirastri Wulandari, a 45-year-old law consultant who joined Purwakanthi around six months ago to learn and preserve Javanese culture, as she herself is of Javanese descent. “I had never learned to dance. I joined [the community] to learn the basics [of Javanese dance],” she told The Jakarta Post.

Joining the community means more activities on her weekends. “We have to be committed. But if we are happy, it doesn’t feel hard. Although we are busy, we will try [to make the time],” she said, citing that she had been able to learn Javanese dance and make more friends since joining Purwakanthi.

There were also young girls in the room. Among them was Myisha Aretha Larashani, the community’s youngest member. The 13-year-old shares her passion of dancing. “My goal is to be a professional dancer because that’s my dream,” she said.

Established in 2013, Purwakanthi is a community of Javanese dance lovers founded by Yoesi Ariyani and her eight friends who are all Javanese dance lovers. The community currently has 76 members who have showcased the results of their rehearsals in various events, including the World Dance Day in Surakarta, a performance in Singapore and the Wayang Orang Bharata performances in Jakarta.

Read also: ‘Wayang Orang Bharata’ strives to preserve traditional culture

The community currently has 76 members who have showcased the results of their rehearsals in various events, including the World Dance Day in Surakarta, a performance in Singapore and the Wayang Orang Bharata performances in Jakarta.(JP/Wienda Parwitasari)

Every Saturday or Sunday, members are invited to gather and practice within the Joglo @ Kemang compound. They will be taught basic or more advanced classic Surakartan Javanese dance in groups, each according to the group’s level. The community also welcomes lovers of classic Surakartan dance who want to do a one-time free trial practice.

“The teacher always tells us to never dance alone. Don’t try to make only yourself good because you are dancing as a group,” said Yoesi.

She explains that the name Purwakanthi itself means the beginning of togetherness.

“Our goal is to make Purwakanthi the only place to learn classic Surakartan Javanese dance [in Jakarta],” she added.

The members of Purwakanthi community are taught by Martini “Tini” Brenda, an alumni of Indonesian Arts Institute Surakarta. “In Surakartan dance the tempo flows, also known as mbanyu mili (water that flows), which means that it doesn’t stop,” she explained.

Read also: Ngariung Sundanese community launched in Bandung

Tini teaches all members of the community, be it law consultant, journalist, doctor or students, regardless of their age and experience in dancing. “At first, it will be hard for those who is starting [to dance] from zero. They have to learn to coordinate their hands, legs and head,” she said, adding that if the members are diligent enough, they will find their own way of learning on the third and fourth lesson.

“Those who want to learn the Javanese dance do not have to go anywhere far. There is already one in Jakarta, a community without grade exams, the one that is run in a relaxed manner, but also serious,” she said, referring to Purwakanthi.

On May 31, Purwakanthi held a performance in a gathering held at Balai Sarwono. Divided in several groups, the 27 dancers performed three types of classic Surakartan dances, namely Gambyong Pareanom, Bedhayan Purwakanthi and Rantaya.

Aside from the dance performances by Purwakanthi members, the event also hosted a cultural forum, a Wayang Urban show and a Topeng Gunung Sari dance performance. (kes)

Source: MASAJENG RAHMIASRI, Jakarta Post, 2017, 8 june.

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