A brief look at the dances I’m learning

That’s the Ramayana Ballet that I keep talking about. The choreography is Solo-style, though the style always changes slightly depending on who’s dancing and what style of dance he or she happens to prefer. One of my dance teachers said that at this point the choreography is effectively mixed between Yogya and Solo styles.

According to my Wikipedia reading, Solo and Yogyakarta used to be one kingdom. However, they eventually divided, which led to this divide in dance styles. Costumes are a bit different depending on the dance style, especially in the details. Some positions, such as the way you kneel or sit, are different. Transitions can also be different. For example, to bring your hands in front of your face in Solo-style dance, you come from below. Not so for Yogya-style dance.

However, most of the differences remain lost on me. In fact, it took me a while to figure out what kind of dance I was learning. (The answer is Solo-style.)

That’s the dance that I’m currently learning. Or, rather, part of one version of the dance that I’m currently learning. The version that I’m learning is only about fifteen minutes long, six minutes of which we haven’t gotten to yet.

As you can see, Javanese dance is very slow. On one hand, this is nice because it means that I have ample time to think about what step comes next. On the other hand, it’s very easy to get lost when the music is so slow. I’m also still no good at counting gamelan music, so I tend to resort to learning dances based on the melody of the song which–as my ballet teacher will tell you–is not the way that you should be doing things.

This next dance was performed at the UKJGS alumni reunion that I mentioned in an earlier post.

I learned the beginning of this dance but haven’t gotten past that, largely because no one has broken it down for me yet. I can pick up a little if I stand in the back and follow along, but the reason that I’ve almost finished learning a fifteen-minute long dance is because we went through it slowly, week after week, one step at a time.

I’ve heard rumors that next week we’re going to start learning a different dance from a different teacher. I will, of course, let you know how that goes.


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