Capturing the spirit of remote Indonesia

9 March 2017

Eko Supriyanto, a leading Indonesian dancer and choreographer of his generation, brings two cutting edge dance productions, Balabala and Cry Jailolo, to Australia in March 2017.

Both Balabala and Cry Jailolo have been inspired by Eko’s experiences in Indonesia’s remote Maluku islands, home to some of the world’s greatest diving locations and a region subject to environmental degradation.

Eko first came to the Maluku to work on a major festival to promote tourism in the community of Jailolo Bay on the island of Halmahera. During his time on the island he began to see the communities and underwater diving worlds as something much more than just a tourism campaign. He became deeply invested in the community, returning frequently to work with youth from disadvantaged regions and homes.

Profoundly affected by these relationships and the experience of the underwater world, Eko began to develop a contemporary dance work with a selection of committed young males. He recruited seven untrained male adolescent dancers and worked with them for two years to create a performance piece that captured their story in movement and dance.

This evolved into Cry Jailolo, a work of ‘silent tourism’ that shines light on the potential of remote communities and the collective and individual experience of Indonesia today.

Photo of seven dancers on stage
Dance production Cry Jailolo was inspired by Indonesian dancer and choreographer Eko Supriyanto’s experiences in Indonesia’s remote Maluku Islands and featured untrained male dancers from the region. Credit: Arts Centre Melbourne.

Balabala is the sister work to Cry Jailolo, proudly co-commissioned by Arts Centre Melbourne and the Australia-Indonesia Institute and premiering at Asia TOPA (Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts) in Melbourne. The production features five young female dancers from Jailolo who add their voices to the cultural expression of this remote Eastern Indonesian community.

Based on traditional male war dances, the young women take ritual war preparations into their own bodies. They carve the space around them with slow, powerful movements drawn from the Pencak Silat (Indonesian martial arts) philosophy of the nine directions.

Hierarchies of culture and gender give way to the strength of the dancers as they showcase through their fluidity of movement the multiple roles of women in Indonesia. Poised at the brink of adulthood, they channel their energy with an intense focus that builds an irresistible momentum.

Eko’s performance career ranges from major commercial productions to dance research projects. He was a dance consultant for Julie Taymor’s Broadway production of The Lion King and has choreographed and performed for major international productions including Peter Sellars’ Le Grand Macabre, and John Adams’ opera A Flowering Tree at London’s Barbican Centre and the Lincoln Centre in New York.

Cry Jailolo and Balabala have both been produced with the assistance of the Australia­Indonesia Institute (AII).

AII grant rounds are currently open for projects deepening connections between Australia and Indonesia and close 19 April 2017.

Photo of five young women wearing the same black t-shirt
Balabala features five young female dancers from the remote east Indonesian community of Jailolo adapting traditional male war dances and preparations. Credit: Arts Centre Melbourne.

Last Updated: 9 March 2017