A charm of Indonesia — a festival in Jakarta

A journey to Indonesia for a dance festival was one of the most important trips in my life. Although it was not my first visit to Asia, during this one I realized how many “small worlds” exist on the globe. Since my visit to the islands Java and Bali I wanted to travel even more. Also then I got an idea that I should share my  experiences and  everything I’ve seen there with the others. So after a few years, here we are, on my blog. I will now tell you about Jakarta from the perspective of a dancer and a tourist.

More photos: http://www.alicjazell.pl/en/jakarta-indonezja/

In 2013 I was lucky to partake in a big international dance festival, the International Folk Dance Festival (IFDF) in Jakarta, on the Java island. It was a big event — a festival and a dance competition, all in one (we were on the high, forth place in ranking!). The main stage was just below the national monument of independence (Monument National). There were many exotic groups, a passage through the main street with dance performances, and workshops at schools. Apart from our group, which was the only one from Poland (and the youngest one as well), there were also dancers from Romania, Austria, Singapore, Bulgaria, South Korea, Thailand, Bangladesh and Russia. I had the opportunity to get to know some of them in person, and certainly met all of them during the performances.

Z tancerzem z Indonezji
With a dancer from Indonesia

Life at the festival is not what it may seem at first sight— posing for photos and a carefree holiday. For us, dancers, the festival begins long before a departure. It starts when we meet on rehearsals to prepare a repertoire suited to the requirements of the festival — we know how many performances we are going to have, when and where it will take place, if it is going to be a competition or perhaps a workshop with students, and also what the scene would look like. This all is very important in order to prepare a plan for performances, choreography, and to choose the costumes, bearing in mind that each person can take an average of 2 outfits — its weight and volume do not allow more when we fly by a plane and  have baggage restrictions. These are small details, and yet  are very important!

At the festival itself there are even more challenges. I always have the feeling that while being at a folk festival, I’m in a very pleasant and interesting work environment, but it’s still work. Since our stay has an imposed schedule, we have all our days planned —dates of performances, meeting times, transfers, meals etc. Often we are outside the hotel from morning until the evening, we change places, sometimes we take our costumes with, sometimes we don’t. Before the performances we have our own rehearsals, and if it is a ceremony with all of the attending groups, we need to rehearse all together. And of course time for make-up! Preparing the outfit! There is very little time to sleep, and even less for a short nap. You always have to be ready and have a fresh mind to keep up with the pace. But this is not enough — all these things have to always be done with a smile on your face, because you are among the people who want to get to know you, watch you, talk to you. And at the end of the day you need to have more energy for the international evenings, dancing and conversations with new friends from all around the world. You have to give 100% of your energy to successfully survive the festival. Honestly — I love this state of limbo between the worlds, because this is how I feel it. A few hundred people sharing a passion for dance and their own culture come to one festival, we often stay in one hotel, so we meet in such an exotic blend and have something to talk about, we are open to live together in one reality for a week or longer —a reality previously so unknown to us all —this time Indonesian one. I also like to watch their performances, they are often breathtaking. But at all the time I am also proud of the Polish culture, which is particularly interesting for the Asians, because it is so different.

When I participate in the festivals, I can not only watch folklore dances, but trying to get to know it as well. Sometimes there are dance meetings, where we learn dances of other countries, or take part in workshops. This time we had the opportunity to learn one of the dance of the host country, which consists of rhythmic clapping and movement of the body while remaining in one position. It seems to be simple, but several hand beats are so complex that today I would not be able to repeat them. Besides, maybe it is not so evident, but the position we sit in is very inconvenient!

Biała skóra była atrakcją
White skin was an attraction

White skin and blond hair were an attraction in Indonesia. When we were in costumes, or even dressed casually, the natives approached us and wanted to take pictures with us, because we were so interesting to them! Before the performance on the main stage, we were surrounded by a large square full of people, and dozens of them came in front of our tents/changing rooms and asked for a photo. It was my longest photo shoot! [Photo]

I was also very lucky to be a part of a group of dancers who performed together with the representatives of other countries on one stage during the opening and closing of the festival. These are the so-called ceremonies and a special choreography for groups is specially prepared for this occasion. Since I’m usually the shortest among the dancers, I had the great honour to lead our group to the stage and to dance in the first line, I remember this moment with fondness and satisfaction until today.

Taniec festiwalowy, fot. Tomasz Pronin
Festival dance, fot. Tomasz Pronin

Jakarta is an interesting, chaotic, huge, loud, and often a dirty city, with a smell of the exhaust fumes. An entire agglomerate has about 30 million inhabitants! Very often with 5- or 6-lane roads, hundreds of motorbikes, scooters, cars, all together with carts pulled by donkeys. In Jakarta I learned that the motorbike can carry more than two passengers. Whole families rode on one scooter: for example two parents and three children. The contrasts were incredible, and the traffic was striking! It was the first time I saw something like that. And for the first time I was really scared to cross a street.  (Movie below)

In this this world of metropolis it is impossible to find beautiful, green parks, but people probably can not complain about the lack of space to relax. Around the monument of independence there is a huge area with parks and promenades, where residents and spend their free time with their families. The trade is thriving other there colourful bundles of sweets, cotton candy, and sunglasses are everywhere. There was also a market where merchants had their stands, and I ,obviously, felt very comfortable there and  did not refrain from relaxing there. In general, I thought that Jakarta is a dirty city, just one look at the water in the channel or at the mentioned market proved that. For the Europeans this was an example of dirt and poverty. And indeed, those sleeping merchants, tired people  pulling harnessed carts and carrying huge quantities of goods—this all means poverty to us. But perhaps not for the Indonesians. For them, this is an everyday life, something normal and natural, I think that it does not bother them. Only we, are the ones, who complain. We do it, because we are used to the standards of the European Union and would not eat snacks prepared on the street, would not throw a garbage in one corner because of the segregation of waste, etc. The people of Jakarta apparently feel very comfortable in their own world.

At work
At work
Największy meczet w Indonezji
Istiqlal Mosque

Indonesia consists of 17,000 islands, each with its own microclimate, different people, different religion. Java is an island where Islam is the most popular religion. We visited the largest mosque in this part of Asia — Istiqlal Mosque. Indeed, was very impressive. We had to put on special clothes covering most of the body and take off our shoes to be able to get inside.  Interesting was that, in front of the mosque there was a Christian church, which was supposed to be a sign of reconciliation between two religions. [Photo.]

Climate of Jakarta is… metropolitan. I wanted to write humid, equatorial… But I really did not pay much attention to it, because in this city everything rushes among skyscrapers with several dozens of floors and exhaust fumes. It was very hard to feel the climate. Until it rained! Such short but very intense rainfalls occur frequently. We only experienced it once throughout our stay. But it was something! We only needed to walk a dozen meters from the bus to the hotel, and we already got soaking wet! Then I realized why flip-flops are so popular in Indonesia — it’s obvious that after such a downpour, you do not have to walk in wet shoes! J

I have to mention the popular taxis and mopeds, called bajaj. I only had a short ride, but it gave me a lot of joy! I was accompanied by Deandra, our guide, a person helping the group to find our way during the festival and ensuring the implementation of performances and meeting plans. Naufal  was our second guide. They were both very nice people, just like the students we had workshops with. On this basis I can say that the people of Jakarta are very friendly, show respect to others and smile a lot. I stayed in touch with Deandra and we will meet in Europe soon.

We have seen how are produced traditional puppets used in puppets theater, which is very popular. Nearby was there a museum of puppets. It’s very difficult and beautiful art.  (Movie below)

Indonesia is the world not yet discovered by me, this was just a substitute. I would like to go back there, especially to Bali, about which I will write in another post. I would also like to see more Indonesian islands. This culture really inspires me and is extremely interesting. That’s why I was happy that I could get to know the Indonesians during the Erasmus Program. It was like a journey through time and space. I wish you many more wonders and amazements in different parts of the world.

You can see more in this links as well:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzkC7bHvvCE

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