Arts & Culture / Mosaic / January 29, 2014

Indonesian student’s culture dances to Knox

Freshman Diandra Soemardi dresses in traditional Indonesian garb while performing a Balinese dance. (Courtesy of Diandra Soemardi)

Freshman Diandra Soemardi dresses in traditional Indonesian garb while performing a Balinese dance. (Courtesy of Diandra Soemardi)

Balinese dance, practiced for centuries in Indonesia, arrived at Knox this year with freshman Diandra Soemardi, who has begun teaching classes in the style through Terpsichore Dance Collective. The style in Bali, Indonesia ranges in purpose from entertainment to the ceremonial to the protection of a village.

At Knox, Soemardi teaches it as a class on Mondays from 4-5 p.m. in the Aux Gym.

Soemardi explained that there are two main categories of Balinese dance: one that is sacred and only to be performed in temples, and another that is for the public and can be danced by anyone. It is the second one that she has studied in Indonesia since she moved there in kindergarten.

“[Balinese dance] was an extracurricular at school. We would perform for schools or at ceremonies,” she said.

Most memorable to Soemardi was performing a blessing ceremony at age 14 — called a melaspas — for a new building at her school.

Since costumes for Balinese dance performances are so elaborate and detailed, she often references photographs from the experience to explain.

Soemardi’s students at Knox wear the traditional kamben — a wide loop of colorful fabric rolled about the hips. She brought several from home over break. For now, there are enough for all her students to borrow.

“I wish my parents could send me more if the class grows,” she said.

According to Soemardi, her students are doing well picking up the Balinese style, though they still have a lot more to learn.

“I told my students at the end of the term they would do one piece from a classic Balinese dance,” she said. “But that’s still a long way off.”

Despite the learning curve, Soemardi was delighted by her friends and students a couple weeks ago.

“That night it was the end of my birthday in Indonesia, but my friends came out wearing kambens and playing Indonesian music,” she said.

According to Soemardi, not all the moves were Balinese. She has a video of their dance and can point out what she had taught them and what was the Macarena. Although her friends did not execute the style perfectly, she felt honored by the performance.

“Indonesian culture is not very well-known here, so to have them influenced by my culture like that is just really sweet.”

Camille Brown
Camille Brown is a junior majoring in English literature and double minoring in educational policy and journalism. Previously, she served as editor-in-chief of her high school paper and a reporter for TKS. She spent the summer of 2012 freelancing for The Peninsula Gateway and is currently pursuing an independent study concerning the media’s influence on education.

Tags:  bai balinese dance indonesia kamben melaspas terp terpsichore dance collective

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