“Other foot,” the girl kneeling behind me says, except she says it in Indonesian and the words are all different so I’ve already turned around and looked at her and figured it out that way before my brain has caught up with her words
I switch feet, pointing my left knee to the ceiling and resting my weight on the ball of my right foot. I flex my foot as much as possible, pushing it into the ground. It hurts. A lot. But I ignore it and try to remember what comes next in the dance. I’m filling in for one of the other girls who couldn’t make it to this rehearsal.
The person who habitually dances Laksmana is in front of us dancing, but he’s definitely not dancing Laksmana’s part. His gaze is downcast and he’s slowly shifting his weight from foot to foot, flicking his scarf. He’s dancing Sita’s part.
The girl to my right moves then, walking forward to pantomime accepting a bow from Rama. She holds her hands up to the empty air and in my mind I trace in Rama, knees bent, arms tight, reaching forward to place the bow in her hands. This image is quickly blotted out by what actually happens–the woman who dances Sita comes out from somewhere behind me and steps forward into Rama’s place. She has a slight build–thin face, long limbs–but her expression is just as serious and fierce as Rama’s would be.
The girls around me start giggling. By the time Sita is supposed to come forward and kneel with her husband-to-be, they’re laughing out loud, as is the woman who dances Sita. I’m laughing too, because this is something that needs no explanation in spoken language.
It’s funny to watch someone who should be Sita supporting someone who should be Laksmana, arms outstretched for his to rest upon as if she were the stronger one. She puts her hand on the small of his back and escorts him offstage, laughing the whole way. He remains quietly amused, keeping his emotions in check as is befitting of anyone dancing a girl’s part.