In 1978, between teaching schedules, they created Rampa dance when they were still active in the Cakra Donya group. The dance, which is originally 75-minute long, is what we currently know as Aceh Rampai dance. Marzuki and Nurdin have consistently developed the movements of Saman, Ratoh, Seudati, Laweut, and other Acehnese dances. The creative process was usually divided between them based upon expertise. Marzuki, who was more active in poems and verses created the accompanying music and lyrics, while Nurdin created the choreography and dance structure.
People slowly started to grasp the beauty of this traditional dance, which was heavily influenced by the Malay culture. “The characteristics of Acehnese dance are very distinctive. Its core lies not in the wiraga-wirasa-wirama (physical-sense-rhythm) as in Javanese and Balinese dances, but in its unity, power, discipline, and bravery,” said Marzuki. He continued, “There are two dominant parts in it, the movement and the vocal. In Acehnese dance, whatever can turn into music – the musical body, the musical vocal, even the floor can be a musical instrument.”
Marzuki believes, although constrained by Acehnese cultural rules, there is room for exploration. In verses for example, Marzuki composed many new lyrics, even some were created spontaneously. They don’t only serve as prayers, the lyrics in Acehnese poetry sometimes contain stories, wisdom, advice, religious guidance, and even social critics. “I once stood to lead a strike and deliver an oration, but using poems and verses. That was soo memorable, because it showed how strong and versatile this tradition was.”
The exploration in creating new Acehnese dances was then brought into American Dance Festival 1984. Not only did it mesmerize the audience, the performance also opened doors for Acehnese dances to be performed at various global festivals and stages. Since then, both Marzuki and Nurdin engulfed themselves in teaching, choreographing, and travelling to different parts of the world, exploring America, Africa, Australia, Europe, and many regions in Asia. They also regularly performed in the national palace, as well as events like Ganefo, SEA Games, and PON. “Between the 1980s and 1990s, I rarely got a break. I was busy travelling the world. But I am so proud of bringing Acehnese dances to places,” he reminisces in fondness.
Not only in the professional dance scene, Acehnese dance also grew popular as an extracurricular activity in high schools around Jakarta and its neighbouring cities. According to Marzuki, the phenomenon started with IKJ’s arts program, which organized performances around schools in 1990s. Since then, Acehnese dances gained popularity, there was even a weekly Acehnese dance festival. The height of Acehnese dances in Jakarta made way for new modifications in movement, costume, poem, verse, and the tradition itself. Marzuki and Nurdin could see that their determination had enabled a major wave of creativity within Acehnese dances.