'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
"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
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
"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
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.