One of my guilty pleasure TV show is So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). This summer was its fourth year, and I’ve been following it religiously from the get go. What I admire the most from this year’s season was its diversity. They added Bollywood, Argentine Tango, Pas de deux, Country two-step, and Russian Trepak into the routines. It’s a nice break to watch something else other than ballroom’s salsa, quickstep and jive.
The show this year was pack full of respective choreographers. The usual ones (not less important) like Mia Michaels, Jean Marc Genereaux, Tyce Diorio, and Mandy Moore were mixed with new ones like husband and wife Tabitha and Napoleon D’Umo (hip hop), Nakul Dev Mahajan(Bollywood), Sonya Tayeh (jazz), Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden (ballet). The result was a collection of outstanding and diverse dance choreographies; danced gracefully by the Season 4 dancers.
Closer to the finale, the routines were getting ‘crazy’. New dance styles were introduced, for instance: Bollywood, Country Two-Step, Pas De Deux, and Trepak. The dancers were at first struggling with these new stuff; because you can’t just dance something that belongs to other culture, you have to ‘get it right’. The dancers tried not to get a ‘Look at those Americans trying to dance our dance’ from a native Indian or Russian. They have to do the kick right, or the ‘Indian eye glance’ correctly. The dancers did not disappoint at all. At least not me.
On the last night of the show, where they announced the winner, all judges got a chance to pick their favorite dance number and watch it again. Among the others, Bollywood was chosen by Nigel Lythgoe (judge and producer). I was pleased to hear this, regardless if this is a ‘scheme’ or not.
Then I pondered, if Bollywood could get exposed, why not [one of] Indonesian dances? Question is, how familiar is the audience and TV viewers with Indonesian dance? More specifically, which Indonesian dances is well exposed to the world? Balinese, Sumatran, or Javanese dance? I’d say the first one, probably Janger (performed sitting down, with highly coordinated hand, shoulder, and eye movements) or Kebyar (fans on one hand, they move dramatically while feet are strongly grounded, and hands and feet move abruptly).
I know for sure, that Indonesian dance is not that foreign here in the US, or even in Indonesia. When I was still back home, I heard a lot of foreigners were learning Indonesian dances at various institutions primarily in Bali and Java. While here in the US, a lot of our Indonesian student organizations (Permias) were able to host ‘Indonesian nights’ or some other form of Indonesian cultural events. Plus, our Indonesian embassies are also good in doing their job promoting our culture, dance is one of them. Indonesian dance and music could also be found through the education world, such as University of Wisconsin in Madison, the Center for World Music in Berkeley, Calif., and at the University of Hawaii. Other than the ‘formal’ institution, there are also dance centers such as this place.
So why is Indonesian dance not well known? How can we help Indonesian dance be more recognized?