Independent dancer Lim Pei Ern recounts her experience participating in Sasikirana KoreoLAB & Dance Camp in Bandung.
Pei Ern originally wrote this essay as a report to MyDance Alliance for being a recipient of its Small Grants program.
Sasikirana KoreoLAB & Dance Camp provides a program in the form of space for dialogue, discussions, workshops, research, residencies, collaboration, performances and other activities. It is held at NuArt Sculpture Park in Bandung, Indonesia, where the dance training focuses on site-specific work. For the edition that occurred in August 2016, six choreographers and 25 dancers were chosen to participate, representing 16 cities throughout Indonesia and the Southeast Asia region, from five different countries. I participated as a dancer.
Artists from various disciplines came together, those with experience in dance and those without, secluded at the site , in order to communicate and interact closely. The 25 dancers split themselves among the six choreographers, who were mentored by international and local invited artists: Arco Renz from Belgium, Fathurrahman bin Said from Singapore, and Hartati and Eko Suprianto from Indonesia.
Every morning began with a training session or contemporary class by one of the four mentors. Arco focused on body awareness; he specified the use of breathing and explained how energy can be channelled and transported inside the body to all body parts. It took a lot of concentration for him to guide us through even a simple task. Fathurrahman took us to different sites for movement exploration. Intruding into new spaces and surroundings helped to refresh the mind and body. Hartati’s time with us was very relaxing, introducing the possibility of movements for partnering work. Lastly, Eko had the most intensive workout for us, more like cardio and power. He made us run, hop up the hill like a frog, and do push-ups; it was basically a gym workout. None of the artists prepared contemporary technique exercises as they would have been taught in normal institutions.
In the afternoon, the six choreographers worked with their own dancers at a chosen site. In the evening, we showed what we had worked on or the progression of the work to our mentors. We closed the day with reflection, dialogue, communication, sharing, thoughts and opinions. This routine continued for the next seven days until the ninth day, when the general public were welcomed to the site.
I was placed in a group to work with Balinese choreographer Dek Geh. Each choreographer worked intimately with the four mentors, whose passing remarks served to guide the creative process. The choreographers each had to present a solo work to the mentors before starting work with their dancers. The dancers were often given tasks to experiment with. We were expected to receive orders and to execute them in our own manner. The site my group worked on was a slope with trees and grass along it. Because it was outdoors, the weather needed to be considered, too.
I felt that I hadn’t come all the way to Bandung to be a passive dancer, so I stepped up to be more active, suggesting games as an ice-breaker. I proposed to play chase while being aware of obstacles when being chased or chasing, and also to be aware of what worked and what not, which path was easier to run and how, and what other challenges we faced. Some of this I had learned from my composition class work when I was a student at LaSalle College of the Arts, in Singapore.
Every artist has their own method to create and rehearse. The choreographer I was working with used storytelling as a basis for creation, which reminded me so much of Bollywood movies. As for me, I never like to restrict myself to anything but allow full range to my curiosity for better exploration. So I climbed the trees, crawled and rolled down the slope, using the trees to stop my momentum, and found this to be useful material to be pieced together afterwards. This also helped when it came to structuring the work. I was a little disappointed that there was nothing in the work about traditional dance or about contemporising the choreographer’s heritage of Balinese dance; it was all about the relationship with the site, space, bodies, responses with the set of parameters given and the architecture of it all. Eventually, the choreographer decided to highlight the idea of perseverance, of reaching the top of the slope in spite of the falling and sliding. In the end, my playing paid off.
I was tempted to join this camp because of the diversity of the participants, both artistically and in terms of our countries of origin. For future participants, I would say that Sasikirana Dance Camp provides a platform that is best suited for undergraduates or postgraduates in the performing arts who wish to step up as emerging choreographers. As a choreographer, you get to work closely with the mentors, whereas as a dancer you only work with your assigned choreographer.
To maximise your experience there, it would be good to propose an exchange of workshops among your peers, as there is sufficient time between sessions. While I was there, I connected with another one of the choreographer participants, Aco Ridwan from Makassar. We stayed in touch, sharing ideas through email, and two years later we got together to collaborate on the work Nyanyian Bumi. So the Sasikirana event proved to be useful for meeting other practitioners in the region.
Lim Pei Ern is an independent dancer that performs and creates work internationally. More
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Featured photo: Dancers in NuArt Sculpture Park, Bandung, August 2016.