Adelaide-raised dancer and choreographer Ade Suharto, who presented her first full-length dance work, In Lieu, at OzAsia in 2011, is returning to the festival in 2013 to present the world premiere of a new work, Ontosoroh.
The new work is a collaboration between Suharto and Peni Candra Rini, a leading Indonesian vocalist and composer, and is areimagining of Nyai Ontosoroh who was the female lead in the Indonesian literary classic This Earth Of Mankind. When I meet up with When I meet up with Suharto to discuss Ontosoroh, I’m surprised to see the dancer sitting in a café with a pair of crutches by her side. “Oh, it’s just a minor mishap,” she says with a wave of her hand. “I’ll be okay.” Suharto, who also organises the annual INDOfest in Rymill Pk, then goes on to say she has only just returned from Indonesia where Ontosoroh enjoyed a run before its Australian premiere. “We did two performances last weekend – before that I was in London presenting my first work, In Lieu at Southbank – and they went really well,” she reveals. “It was great to do them so we could see what needed a bit of tweaking before coming to OzAsia. “But we are happy where the work is at as all the main sections are there and we have the good fortune of having a bit more rehearsal time in Adelaide before the premiere,” Suharto adds. She goes on to say she had always had a desire to work with Peni Candra Rini. “I’d known about Peni’s work for about seven years and she is trained in classical Javanese music but very keen to explore new techniques,” Suharto says. “So after the success of In Lieu at OzAsia in 2011 I made contact with her when she was studying at UCLA in the US and asked if she wanted to do something. “She got back to me pretty quickly and said, ‘Yeah, why not? Who not give it a shot?’ So we worked together using Javanese dance as a base,” she adds. “And the central character is Nyai Ontosoroh from Prmoedya Anata Toer’s book This Earth Of Mankind who is quite a complex person. So we thought she would be a great platform on which to base a work and show the diversity of our range.” Ontosoroh, which will be exclusive to Adelaide, will feature dance performed to music by percussionist Plenthe, gendèr player Iswanto and Prisha Bashori Musthofa on violin. “It will be Prisha’s first time overseas so he’s been brushing up on his English,” Suharto says with a laugh. “But Peni has been here before with an Indonesian opera written by Robert Wilson as part of The Melbourne Festival although this will be different as it’s her own work. “We hope Ontosoroh will have a life after OzAsia and we can take it back overseas,” she concludes. “We’re all pretty young – we are all under 30 – so we’re up for anything.” OzAsiaFestival Ontosoroh, Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre Mon Sep 16 and Tue Sep 17 at 7.30pm Images: Photos by Arief Budianto