Preserving Mangkunegaran dances
Posted May 31, 2013on:
Nine girls were gracefully performing a dance called Golek Montro, as they entered the hall of the Mangkunegaran Palace to the accompaniment of the classical gamelan composition Ladrang Asmarandana.
Presented by members of the palace’s Surya Sumirat dance studio, the show opened a festival of the performing arts in Surakarta (Solo) recently.
The dance, created by former palace ruler Kanjeng Gusti Pangeran Adipati Arya (KGPAA) Mangkunegara VII, is considered sacred and is always used to welcome palace guests and ensure the smooth progress of any grand ceremony.
Golek Montro presents palace princesses preening, as shown through the dominant movements of their hands and heads. Now and again the dancers shift together like young girls having fun.
With equal grace the Bedoyo Bedah Madiun dance was performed on the second day of the festival. Nine women portrayed the battle between Mataram king Panembahan Senopati and Retno Dumilah, a daughter of Madiun regent Adipati Ronggolumpeno.
Despite the story of confrontation, the choreography is not a war dance. Instead, the dancers emerge through slow, silent steps, their refined motions devoid of any semblance of armed clashes, notwithstanding the kris strapped to their belts.
In fact, Bedoyo Bedah Madiun is a romantic fragment of the encounter of Panembahan Senopati with Retno Dumilah. The conflict ends with the two combatants making peace and Retno Dumilah becoming the consort of the Mataram sovereign.
“Through this event we wish to preserve the arts and culture of the Mangkunegaran Palace and introduce what we have inherited to society. We’re sure that some of the thousands of spectators will be interested in learning classical dances. They will be our successors to help preserve this cultural treasure,” said KRMH Jatmika Hamijaya Santosa, a palace family member.
The latest children’s dances of the Mangkunegaran Palace were also featured, for example a butterfly dance, Timun Mas opera and a recent work of Surya Sumirat founder GPH Herwasto Kusumo called Sobrak.
The Kupu-kupu or Butterfuly dance had 10 children aged 7 to 10 performing basic classical Javanese dance steps cheerfully, like butterflies flying from one flower to another, their colorful costumes reflecting youthful joy.
The classical Timun Mas or Golden Cucumber dance offered a more elaborate composition, with the dancers singing as well. Child spectators were considerably entertained and gave a round of applause as the buto ijo or green ogre clashed with forest dwellers defending the cucumber in a representation of the popular folktale.
Sobrak, a soldiers’ dance, offered basic military feats like marching, jumping and somersaulting that were carried out in unison along with martial arts steps and equine movements.
According to Culture and Tourism Office head Widdi Sihanto, the annual program of Mangkunegaran performing arts serves as an open forum for the public to appreciate local dance, both classical works and newer creations.
“Such appreciation is important because globalization has led to an influx of foreign cultures into Indonesia. If the younger generation gets carried away, our traditional arts and culture will vanish,” Widdi said.
The second day of the festival was enlivened by a Harjuna Newata Kawaca performance of the duel between Arjuna, the third of the five Pandawa brothers in the epic Mahabharata, and the demon king Newata Kawaca. The dance was created by KGPAA Mangkunegara V and has frequently been staged at wayang orang (classical dance-drama theater) in more forceful versions.
A Mandrarini performance followed, with four female soldiers of the palace practicing a military drill. The dance, choreographed by KGPAA Mangkunegara IV and dominated by war dance steps, was accompanied by Ladrang Gonjang-Ganjing and lasted for about 15 minutes.
In predominantly red costumes complete with bows and cundrik (small kris for females), the dancers flaunted their fearless postures. Although their movements were gentle their stances were confident, resembling the classical Srikandi dance.
A fragment of the Dewi Sekartaji mask dance concluded the festival with its Panji (Hindu-Buddhist) story in Java highlighting central figures Inu Kertapati (Raden Panji Asmorobangun) and Galuh Candrakirana (Dewi Sekartaji).
Played by two male and a female dancers, the dance was elegantly presented. The masks worn by the dancers looked animated, as if changing in appearance in accordance with the characters’ movements.
Besides a command of the characters, masked dancers should also be able to maintain a good balance of the facial guises worn. This is especially the case in Surakarta at both the Kasunanan and Mangkunegaran palaces, where dancers have to bite the masks instead of fastening them with straps, thus requiring high concentration and the regulation of breath.
The dance engendered a serene and mystical air amid the space, while the gentle figures of Raden Panji and Dewi Sekartaji and the cunning masked character of Prabu Klana were superbly rendered and captivating.
Mangkunegaran Palace Mondropuro Regency chief Supriyanto Waluyo said all the dancers at the event were members of the Suryo Sumirat dance studio that offers instruction in classical Javanese dance, particularly those of the Mangkunegaran Palace.
“The Mangkunegaran Palace is always open to those wishing to learn Javanese dance. The times keep changing, but the lofty civilization, culture and arts of our ancestors should continue to be preserved,” he said.