OzAsia Review: Salt

Concern for the degradation of the ocean was the inspiration for Cry Jailolo, which won much applause at OzAsia 2015.

Performed by a splendidly disciplined group of young men and the first in a dance trilogy by Indonesian dancer and choreographer Eko Supriyanto, it drew on the threat to seaport Jailolo’s harbour, symbolic of the oceans’ underwater world. The ideas were lucidly expressed and easily understood.

The same cannot be said about Salt, a solo by the choreographer, and the last of the trilogy (the second, Bala-Bala, has not come to Adelaide). According to a program note Supriyanto takes as his theme ‘the duality of the tensions between life-giving water and caustic salt’, but this does not emerge at all clearly. In a way, that does not matter, as his performance commands the attention so strongly.

To begin, the stage is dark except for a brightly lit metre-wide strip of silvered cloth stretching across the front of the space. As the stage lighting slowly grows to dim, and stays there, the dancer is just able to be seen, nude, his back to the audience, slowly moving his arms, then his torso, bending, swaying. The dim light fades.

In this first section, Dimawan Krisnowo Aadji’s music contains a series of animalistic shrieks. Later there is spare percussion, rhythmic and melodic.

Stage lighting up, Supriyanto returns in a voluminous white and silver skirt, standing in front of a small pile of white substance – salt perhaps, but in fact magnesium powder. To start he stands with his feet splayed apart, moving pliantly from the waist, but then turns, freeing himself, and scrapes the ‘salt’ with his feet, scattering it around the floor, creating a light cloud, eventually putting a large piece in his mouth, grinning at the audience. This second section begins with movement derived from Javanese classical dance, and then changes to the more vigorous folk dance, Jathilan.

Walking off, he leaves the stage empty and silent for an appreciable time, but the audience remains quiet. He returns wearing dark blue trunks, his body glistening with sweat.  Gradually he lifts his hands, walks very slowly forwards, balancing on one leg several times, rock-steady. He walks, occasionally runs, leaving a careful pattern of white footprints on the floor, raising his arms with clenched fists, as did his dancers in Cry Jailolo – a challenge to the destruction of the seabed. Jailolo dance is more militaristic than the preceding two forms. Then he lets his arms fall, his hands relax, and he leaves the stage in darkness again.

Even if Supriyanto’s message is not easily discernible, he is a truly charismatic dancer.

Salt was performed at the Odeon Theatre, Norwood on Tuesday, October 30.

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