Part of the team on a road trip to Borobudur, a buddhist monument close to Solo and Yogyakarta © Corinna Egdorf
We are back with the last post in this small series on Fire! Fire! Fire!, reporting from Solo. Same as in Jakarta, the venue in Solo, the Teater Besar at the ISI, was sold out. After the show all choreographers took a seat on stage for a public question and answer session.
Here is an excerpt.
(To Sophiline) Would you call your dance a contemporary or a classical piece?
Sophiline Cheam Shapiro: My piece is a classical Cambodian dance with a contemporary sensibility. Cambodian classical dance is full of poses and I want to be technically correct, letting the dancers stretching their fingers to the limit and straigthen up their toes. However, my interpretation of Sita´s trial by fire contains contemporary elements.
The dancers are wearing classical costumes, but in contemporary colours, a grey and light blue, that reminds me of a suit. Sita and Rama tilt their head and hands together and create an intimacy that has never been expressed this way in Cambodian dance before. I also experimented with face colour. The four dancers, who are representing the giants, having their faces and hands painted red. During the performance in Solo I even used traditional Javanese face painting. I transformed the traditional pose of the giants by pushing their bodies together, using the concept of connection, to create a new sculpture-like pose.
How long did you work on this piece?
Sophiline Cheam Shapiro: I designed the piece in about a month, but I still enhance and modify it. With the voice-over in my piece, the storyline becomes visible and while the costume is like a uniform, the red stains and face-paintings are defining the characters.
My piece is about the value of a woman and the value of a human being in general, it’s about essential questions in relationships. I already had those questions in mind for a long time. In my piece Rama asks Sita: Do you only want me as a husband if I am compassionate? And Sita asks him in return: Do you only accept meas a wife if I am clean?
(to Pitchet) What is the connection between Sita’s trial by fire and your piece?
Pichet Klunchun: I think the connection is very clear. The dancers are burning, they are forming a circle and there is a burning man in the middle, silently crying out for help.
I like to create a conflict and to confront the audience with a big question mark.
I wanted to remind them that when the Russian choreographer Nijinsky worked in Paris for the ballet he used Asian techniques to create the The Rite of Spring. During my four years of research about Nijinsky, I came up with the idea that the so-called ‘contemporary’ had already happened in Asia five hundred years ago. I tried to put my body into Nijinsky’s idea, making the costumes tremble like flames and combine the Asian concept and the idea of the contemporary. I dealt with the question: Why do we try to be contemporary?
The second part of the music during my piece is a theme of Stravinsky’s piece of music The Rite of Spring, but out of a contemporary movie, where you can hear people talking and screaming. There is a connection between The Rite of Spring and Sita’s trial by fire.
Scene from the third act, choreographed by Eko Supriyanto© Khvay Samnang
(to Eko) Why did you not dance yourself in your piece?
Eko Supriyanto: I focussed on the choreography itself and on the process of creating. Me and my dancers found the way to this piece together. For six months I was rehearsing eight hours every day together with my friend, the choreographer Arco Renz in Leuwen, Belgium and in Solo, Indonesia.
I dealt with the essence of the spiral movement, the flame, and tried to interpret the confrontation between man and woman. I questioned the traditional story, where Rama asks for Sita’s virginity and loyalty with the trial by fire. This demand would not be possible in our generation and our contemporary times, or with my own wife or daughter. This piece is a different way of treating the question of equality and commitment between man and woman. I also want the Asians to be louder and to speak up.