Indonesian choreographers provide digital stage for dancers

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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. 

“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.”

Two choreographers in Indonesia’s capital rescued him. They gave 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.

“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. 

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

More than 60 videos by individuals and dance groups from various backgrounds and genres are available to viewers. 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% for the performer, 20% to COVID-19 needs in Indonesia and the rest to pay for the project’s costs.

Setyanto saw money deposited into 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 program 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.

Independent art producer Ratri Anindyajati, who has recovered from COVID-19 and is renowned as Case 03 in Indonesia, joined the two Jakarta-based choreographers in the effort. 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. 

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