With the world’s rapid modernization, societies living in developing countries are losing their culture so fast to the western culture. Modernization is changing everything about these societies, even their deepest moral values and beliefs (Aspinall 2015). In Indonesia, for example, many people, especially those in urban areas have forgotten almost everything about their ancestral ways of life and taken up the western ways. This replacement has happened so quickly in the last one decade that some Indonesians have started being skeptical about it (Cowherd 2012). These people are asking: Didn’t we have anything good in our culture before modernization? The answer to this question is: Yes, we had, but it is being lost as well.
In efforts to save this good aspect of the Indonesian culture, some people have decided to engage in and encourage traditional dancing. In the video clip below, Alfira O’Suvillan says that she specializes in Indonesian traditional dancing in order to keep the Indonesian culture alive. Despite having grown in Australia, she likes the Indonesian culture and has devoted her efforts to see that it is saved from drowning.
Indonesian traditional dance (O’Sullivan 2014)
She feels that traditional Indonesian dancing is a good way of saving the Indonesian culture and therefore she has made it her career. According to O’Suvillan, this kind of dancing helps to revive traditional values and beliefs of the Indonesians and also to keep the Indonesian language alive. She is right because dancing is built upon the values and beliefs of a society from where it originates. For instance, there are some dance moves that an Indonesian audience would find appropriate when performed in stage while an Australian would find them offensive or vague. In the same way, there are some moves that Australians would find interesting, but the Indonesians would find them vague. Some traditional Indonesian dance moves and dance costumes also have cultural meaning to the Indonesians, but they do not mean anything to the westerners. For instance, traditional Indonesian dancing helps to save the cultural significance attached to the Batik art of of decorating and creating patterns. Batik is an art through which Indonesians use to decorate, and they mostly use it to decorate cloths. It involves applying wax on the surface of a material before coloring the material so that the waxed surfaces can be left with the original color of the material thus forming patterns of the original and the new color (Machtar 2016). Different patterns have different meaning to the Indonesians, which makes the art so important to them. With globalization, however, many Indonesians have turned to foreign decorations which is killing this art among the Indonesians. Traditional dancers, however, use clothes and materials decorated using this art, thus helping to save the art. For instance, in the video below the dancers have tied a linen around their waist which is decorated using this art. Such an act makes the Indonesians appreciate the art, therefore encouraging them to also shop for clothes decorated through this art.
Indonesians practicing the art of batik (Machtar 2016)
Dancing also helps to make the values of a society look good. Through dancing, people appreciate their culture and make it look like something good (Kaeppler 2000). In the same way, Indonesian traditional dance makes the Indonesian culture look good. It makes the Indonesians to love this culture and an to be bound to it. By doing this, the Indonesian traditional dancers help to show the Indonesian community that the western culture is not the only good culture.
Follow this link to watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqeCbe_3OSI
Aspinall, E. 2015, ‘The Surprising Democratic Behemoth: Indonesia in Comparative Asian Perspective’, The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 74, no. 4, pp. 889-902.
Cowherd, R. 2012, ‘Cultural Construction of Surakarta’, Cultural Construction, viewed 11 February 2017 < https://robertcowherd.wordpress.com/cultural-construction-of-surakarta/>
Kaeppler, A. L. 2000, ‘Dance ethnology and anthropology of dance’, Dance Research Journal, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 116-125.
Machtar, D. 2016, ‘Indonesian batik-A cultural beauty’, Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Indonesia, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-60.
O’Sullivan, A. 2014, The dance nomad project – Suara Indonesia workshop at DBS, Motion Picture, Australia.