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In 2020, contemporary dance in Indonesia and around the world is not doing “business as usual”. We live in times of crisis. And we all know why. Or do we really ?

If we like it or not, our existence as human beings manifests through our bodies. And the mode of survival that is being practiced by almost all of the world’s population due to COVID-19 reminds us of this fact. Contemporary dance makers create on the fertile ground of this physical reality; but their work goes beyond the employment of the anatomical body in order to integrate multiple bodies, material as well as immaterial: the body as a container of existence, a manifestation of “Daya”, the imagined body, the body governed by various kinds of power, the energetic body, the emotional body, or the body suspected of infection … to just mention a few. 

We are involved in a massive choreography, governed by policies, norms, values, and discourses. But the body also retains the power to negotiate with these imposed frameworks, generating a tension between its sovereignty and its confinement. Contemporary dance makers, during these times of pandemic, negotiate this tension ever more intensely. 

Digital communication technologies enable artists to continue creating dance works in the midst of this global pandemic. These new spaces of limited frames and physical distance have contemporary dance makers search for new creation strategies. On the one hand, digital technologies provide the possibility for new languages to articulate ideas, bodies and choreographies. But on the other hand, the experience of physical intimacy and of time-space continuity between a performance and an audience is lost or replaced by other vibrations. The way an audience accesses, experiences, appreciates, and views dance is clearly not the same as when it is performed on stage. The performing body is increasingly “mediated” and the experience of (watching) dance becomes ambiguous by means of its digitalisation.

Facing this complex situation, the Indonesian Dance Festival has changed its name to and presents the theme Daya: Cari Cara. Adopting the characteristics of the .zip file, the series of events of this year’s IDF will be presented in a more compact form, yet it proposes a vivid journey through contemporary Indonesian dance, and a few international excursions, to be enjoyed, reflected on, and discussed together. 

Daya in Indonesian is a multi-layer word used in different contexts. It expresses life force, primordial drive, transformation, potential or empowerment. Meanwhile, Cari Cara refers to the mode of survival, of finding ways to stay alive during moments of hardship, such as the pandemic that we are currently confronted with.

In this spirit, Eun-Me Ahn Company from Korea facilitates an online dance-on-film performance featuring 50 Indonesian dance enthusiasts of all backgrounds and ages. Created through a long-distance collaboration of all the participants, 1’59” is the exact duration of each of these vibrant mini-choreographies that reflect the socio-cultural complexity and diversity of Indonesia.

There are two “work-in-pandemic” showings of performances in-the-making by the Gymnastik Emporium and Hari Ghulur.  Both processes are examples of creative vigilance and of being present in times of social distancing. The collective Gymnastik Emporium worked with 5 sports teachers in Yogyakarta to create a new work entitled #SKJ2020, an ironic reflection on the optimistic body image  divulged through the compulsory Physical Health Gymnastics (SKJ) program in the 1970s to 1990s. SKJ was a gymnastics program which at that time was used to construct the government’s New Order vision of nationalism through the bodies of Indonesian students. Hari Ghulur presents an online preview of his new creation “Sila” in which he transforms the Madurese ritual cross-legged sitting position into a choreographic platform of intense spiritual and social expression.

The Kampana program presents six young Indonesian choreographers who have attended an intense series of virtual workshops and discussions over a period of 7 months. In Peeking the 2020 Kampana program, each of these young choreographers will share their performance projects, lay out their visions and concepts, and tell their creative processes. The Kampana Performance program presents three of the young choreographers’ works-in-progress. Each of them proposes a very personal experience of dance within and through digital technologies: Irfan Setiawan with his work Re-reading Impact; Puri Senja with The Other Half; and Eyi Lesar with Virtual WAY (WhoAreYou).

After reflecting on dance, the pandemic and human existence in two zip.conversations, Resilience as part of Our Blueprint and Presence: Where are we now?,  the will be closed with the performance of Li Tu Tu by Ayu Permata Sari. A work that reflects persistence in the midst of physical distancing and questions the ways we interact and cultivate relationships.

Daya: Cari Cara is a quality shared by all presented works and activities.  With resilience and presence the artists “search ways” and reinvent choreographic languages in times of “New Normal”. They vibrantly affirm that “normal” is a question, and that with every new day, with every new movement, we can create a multiplicity of possibles.

Arco Renz

Linda Mayasari

Nia Agustina

Rebecca Kezia