There’s no better way to appreciate a country than by delving into its culture. It’s a belief Diah K. Wijayanti holds true to her heart, as a dancer and a scholar.
In 2013, she had been working on a post-graduate thesis on the declining public interest in local museums. Her background as a dancer gave her an upper hand. If she could bring moving art to the museum, she thought, perhaps it could somehow revive wider interest among the youth. It was an idea Wijayanti took seriously, by setting up a not-for-profit organisation called Belantara Budaya Indonesia. For starters, free traditional dance courses at Museum Nasional and Museum Kebangkitan Nasional were being offered. One hundred children signed up. Little did Wijayanti know that within less than three years, the number of dancers under her wings would rise to 1,227 within the age group between four and beyond 25 years old.
This was partly thanks to the use of social media in spreading the news and the idea that traditional dance is cool. Following its success in Jakarta, the organisation went on to set up a branch in Lembang, West Java. The three offer traditional dances such as Pendet, Sirih Kuning and Yapong. “Unlike other dance centres that only teach dance techniques but don’t provide a real chance for performing, we sign our members up for a variety of events. In fact, we often receive invitations from government or private institutions, in and out of the country, to perform. In August this year, Belantara Budaya Indonesia pulled off a flashmob dance event in Senayan, 1745 Penari Bagimu Negeri Kami Menari, in commemoration of Indonesia’s Independence Day.“
“As much as I enjoy dancing, I wish there would be more information about each dance - the background, history and meaning of the costumes. Researches are badly needed because many are dying to know,” says Uki Naka, a participant at Belantara Budaya Indonesia who hails from Japan. For Wijayanti and her colleagues at Belantara Budaya Indonesia, their mission couldn’t get any clearer. It’s high time to dance into the future by reflecting on the past, each and every step of the way.