Puri Senja, choreographer, dancer, and dance trainer.

Exploring Memory and Body Trauma in Puri Senja’s Work

26 December 2022

“The body is an endless recorder. Puri Senja goes on a journey within herself, unraveling the piles of memories, traumas, and parts of life shaped her in her long-term work, “The Other Half”. This work is both personal and political.”

– by Titah AW

“When I was little, my father once locked me in the bathroom, my hands were tied with a rope because I refused to take a nap. Since then, I've been afraid of the dark, small spaces, and my father," said Puri Senja. Her gestures suddenly turned firm and fierce, imitating the father figure in her memory.

Puri Senja told this story in a short dance film about her work, “The Other Half”. This work was performed as part of dance laboratory program Kampana at the 2020 Indonesian Dance Festival (IDF).

Throughout the 25-minute film, Puri revisits her memories from childhood to adulthood, the good and the hurtful. It is as if she is opening a thick book of archives that has shaped her, then retells the story in choreography. "I believe our body is very rich in memory, it is a museum and our library," she said.

“The Other Half”, a long-term work that was developed and performed at Kampana IDF 2020.

The work “The Other Half” is perhaps the most personal in Apriliani Puri Senjani’s dance career so far. This work digs deep in the many ways the body stores memories and traumas that form complexities in each person, which then interact with the external environment. Puri Senja believes that the body records in great detail every event that occurs through a sensory system that needs to be further internalized and explored.

“Each body is unique, it has its own story and phenomenon related to the social environment. How it grows and experiences things. I, for one, grew up as the eldest child, as a woman, as a choreographer, I need to dig deeper," she said during an interview. This work also marks Puri's statement that something personal can be very political.

“The Other Half” has come a long way. This work was selected in the Open Call of M1 Cont.act Contemporary Dance Festival in Singapore 2019. However, the pandemic has forced the offline performance of her work. The following year, she submitted this work to be further developed at IDF 2020’s Kampana. To adapt with the pandemic, IDF created an online showcase format. "I had to rack my brain to translate my work from a stage show to a dance film," Puri said.

In June 2022, Puri Senja was reinvited by Cont.act to perform “The Other Half”. The work was to be showcased offline at the Open Stage program. This showcase marks the first time Puri Senja's work has been shown outside Indonesia. Besides the showcase, she also got the opportunity to share her creative process and method in the Sharing Class.

“'The Other Half' is a work full of struggles. I was touched and proud when I was finally able to present this work," said Puri.

Puri’s involvement with IDF started before IDF. The choreographer who graduated from Surabaya State University's art, drama, dance, and music studies first performed as a dancer at the 2016 edition of IDF, then participated in IDF Academy’s Potential Young Choreographers program in 2018.

"At IDF 2020, my work finally got selected for Kampana, but to be honest it was difficult for me to adapt to the online program," said Puri. But the situation pushed Puri Senja to create an alternative presentation format for her work.

Puri Senja as a dancer in “SILO”, a work by Hari Ghulur performed at IDF 2022 Opening Night Image: Kitapoleng Bali / IDF

"For me, IDF is not just a platform.
I find it very helpful because IDF has great networks and provides opportunities to connect young choreographers like me to various international festivals and influential figures who have helped me grow.”

Personally, Puri Senja has been working as a choreographer, dancer, and dance trainer since 2014. She is also active in communities such as Sawung Dance Studio and Surabaya Stage Dance. Her work “#redzone” (2020) was selected for Distance Parade, a dance initiative by the Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology. At IDF 2022, she was one of the dancers in Hari Ghulur's “SILO”, performed at the opening night of the festival. As a choreographer, she wants to focus on sharing her knowledge to contribute to the contemporary dance ecosystem in her hometown, Surabaya.

“In my works, especially 'The Other Half', I challenge my body to keep up with our age and time. My body is a personal laboratory, something internal and personal yet has the ability to reflect ideas to the global and universal," she explained. "Exploration of the body is a lifelong process, it does not stop at this work."

Watch Puri Senja's work “The Other Half” at IDF 2020’s Kampana on the link below!