New Dance Classes

About a month ago, I was at the Student Union as I so often am, sitting at the edge of the courtyard and watching the boys rehearse. Normally I’d have been rehearsing with them, but I was actually supposed to be in this dance (as a girl) so I was waiting for my part to be explained to me. Eventually, the girlfriend of the boys’ dance teacher came over to sit with me, which is how I found out about UNY.

UNY is the other big public school in Jogja after UGM. It’s known for the excellence of its teaching program—many of my language teachers have passed through its halls. More relevant to my interests, however, is the fact that it—unlike UGM—has a dance department. I’d known this all before, but after that night I finally had enough information to actually go and enroll in dance classes myself.

Of course, one thing led to another led to several Sundays where I was busy or sleeping, but last week I finally made it. I’d quizzed the boys’ dance teacher beforehand on where, exactly, on UNY’s campus I had to go and he’d been good enough to pick up an enrollment form for me. I had trouble figuring out where to go anyway, but one SMS and a lot of driving in circles later, I finally found the place.

Signing up was a simple procedure, complicated only by the fact that I didn’t know how to write chemist—my father’s occupation—in Indonesian, and then I was in a class. Because I’d had to register, the class had already started, so I tired my best to position myself in the back row without being too obtrusive. This didn’t really work. The dance teacher saw me right away and told me to fill in the front roll. So there I found myself at the front, learning Jogja-style dance for the first time in almost two years.

When I first got here, I’m almost entirely sure that my dance teacher started me with a Jogja-style dance. I had no idea of the differences between Solo- and Jogja-style dance at the time, but the particular scarf techniques that I learned those first few weeks never came up again once I switched to focusing on Solo-style dance. Thus ended my brief time with Jogja-style dance.

However, with the possibility of enrolling in ISI1 next year, it seemed like a good idea to get more of a feel for Jogja-style dance. At the very least, I want to establish that focusing on Solo-style dance is a good idea. Ideally, though, I hope to find that I also like Jogja-style dance and, along with that, gain a solid—if basic—technical foundation.

After one class, I can say that so far Jogja-style dance feels completely different. Besides hand position differences that I already knew about, the basic sitting position is different. And harder. In both styles of dance, you sit with most of your weight on one knee and one foot, which is tucked beneath you. The other knee points up into the air. In Solo-style dance, the supporting knee and foot are directly beneath the body. This is not the case in Jogja-style dance. Instead, the foot is pushed towards the outside of the body and you somehow position your body weight to the side of it. I, as yet, have no idea how this is supposed to work effectively.

Once the class finished, I limped over to the boys’ dance teacher who was hanging out on the side.

“So you picked Jogja-style,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “And the sitting is completely different.”

“Yes,” he said, graciously not making me feel like an idiot for stating the obvious.

1Institut Seni Indoneisa—an arts university.

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