Indonesian choreographers provide digital stage for dancers

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) — Before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, 2020 seemed fated to be a great year for Siko Setyanto’s dance career: touring Germany and South Korea, performances in Indonesia, classes and more classes.

Now this man in motion has spent more than two months holed up at home with his wife.

“For dancers, it is like the blood line stopped in our body,” he said. “I cannot move freely, no more job … while my economic responsibilities do not stop. Personally, I was stressed too.”

He was rescued by two choreographers in Indonesia’s capital who have given a traditional system for tipping artists, saweran, a modern twist — posting video recordings of dancers’ work on YouTube and asking for donations to keep the dancers and their art alive.

“We remember a long time ago we watched performances with the saweran system,” said Rusdy Rukmarata, who masterminded the project with Yola Yulfianti.

Indonesian dancer Nala Amyrtha performs during a video recording for ‘Saweran Online’ programme on Indonesia Dance Network YouTube channel, at EKI Dance Company studio in Jakarta, Indonesia. PHOTOS: AP
Dancer Siko Setyanto performs a dance while recording it using an action camera mounted on a tripod at his one-bedroom rented house in Jakarta, Indonesia. Two Indonesian choreographers are helping fellow dancers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country by setting up a YouTube channel as a platform where dancers, choreographers and dance teachers can perform, then receive donation from viewers. PHOTO: AP
Indonesian choreographers Rusdy Rukmarata (L) and Yola Yulfianti talk during a meeting at Rukmarata’s office
ABOVE & BELOW: Dancer Siko Setyanto performs a dance while recording it using an action camera mounted on a tripod at his one-bedroom rented house in Jakarta; and Rusdy Rukmarata watches a dance performance on Indonesia Dance Network YouTube channel at his office in Jakarta

“No ticket box, no promotion, only space in the market and the musicians. People can watch them for free, if they like it, they give the tip to the performers,” Rukmarata said.

So Rukmarata and Yulfianti, members of the Jakarta Arts Council, started Saweran Online on the Indonesian Dance Network channel. On this digital stage, dancers can show their work; the shows are free, but viewers are encouraged to donate.

There are more than 60 videos by individual and dance groups from various backgrounds and genres. Included are traditional Indonesian dance, contemporary ballet and even dance workouts for older viewers. Some dancers provide videos, while others record performances at Rukmarata’s studio.

Each donation is divided: 75 per cent for the performer, 20 per cent to other COVID-19 needs in Indonesia and the rest to pay for the project’s costs.

Siko Setyanto saw money deposited in his bank account two weeks after his video went up. The cash is important to Setyanto, but so is the opportunity to show his art. “I really appreciate how this programme can be a place for the dancers to express our works.”

Yulfianti said performers are responsible for attracting viewers and support.

“The dancers should be as creative as they can. They should attract their viewers too,” Yulfianti said.

The two have been joined in their effort by independent art producer Ratri Anindyajati, who has recovered from the COVID-19 and is renowned as Case 03 in Indonesia. Anindyajati said her survival has inspired her to do more for others during the pandemic.

“As I grew up with the dance community, I would like to help them. Moreover, it is not only helping people around the dance community,” but also others who need aid, Anindyajati said.