Prolific choreographies of Minangkabau and Malay traditions
This discussion is with Arison Ibnur or more known as Tom Ibnur. Tom Ibnur is well known in Indonesia for his dance works based on Minangkabau and Malay traditions. This dialogue was conducted after his choreography class at the Jakarta Institute of Arts (IKJ) that finished at 9 pm at the cultural center Taman Ismail Marzuki. He is also the lecturer and teacher for Minangkabau dance traditions originating from West Sumatra in Indonesia and also teaches choreography at for the Dance Program at the Faculty of Performing Arts IKJ. This conversation contains his view and experience on creating dance.
On being a choreographer
“Sometimes we as choreographers must make everything ourselves even the songs. That traditions give inspirations that is true. But there is also something that comes from inside of ourself that if someone else makes it (the other elements for the dance), it wont fit the idea. Ideas are not just the dance but means also the background, there is suffering, there is experience.
When I wear a womans costume (for performance) it is no problemfor the audience. It is needed for depth of feeling. The feeling of a child that can feel the sufferings of the mother in her problems with the father.
Everything will shift to the mother.
In the old times, widows are always spoken of in negative ways so…then my Mak (mother) stayed at home selling (household items)”(the suffering of his mother was part of his choreography in the production titled Padusi (woman).
On training to become a choreographer
“Perhaps because I have academic an background so I learned also choreography making, but the direction of my choreography which I studied is more to the strengths of tradition. This direction is how the strengths in the traditions can become something new. Why new? This kind of thinking comes from my having an academic background. A traditional artist would give what just is the tradition. That is because that would be his or her dance dance from wherever place they came from. But I am different, because there are other knowledges that I have studied then that tradition can become other branches, many other branches into so many possibilities.
So in class or workshops it this thinking that I can give. People can take up anything from wherever they are at the moment and use it as material. So people in creating will be neither Minangkabau or Malay, they will become another choreography.
My views will probably be different from Wiwiek Sipala for example (his colleague and fellow lecturer for choreography class with a Sulawesi background) or others. Every choreographer has their own view…isn’t that so?
So in my way of thinking is on how we can rise the strength of tradition into becoming a new knowledge for choreographing.”
How is the difference of the process of choreography of someone with a traditional background and someone who has knowledge or training for choreography that comes from the western education. Is there a difference? If there is where is the difference?
“this is my view; if I teach two or three students in class, I would not give them the academic view that I studied. I would give them the direction to turn towards the traditions because that would be their strength. Thus everyone can access the knowledge that I can give, for anyone that is open that is, so…
But if there is something more specific needed, say traditional such as nowadays (meaning the existing traditions), then it is needed for a deeper delving into the world of tradition such as what I have done myself.
It isn’t that we are not capable of creating modern choreographies, but in the direction that I am speaking of is we should return to the traditions, the real traditions and on developing them. (In teaching choreography) I would give my knowledge from what I have experienced from traditions. I feel that that would be stronger, so people would understand,..to understand or this understanding (of tradition) is quite difficult and even harder to convey this understanding. But with help, from our cleverness obtained from choreography knowledge through academic training, it would be easier. Because the true traditions if presented as such, it would be difficult to be understood by audiences nowadays.
But the traditions inside of me as the base to make traditional dances, gives boundaries and limitations of movements, limitations of space, spaces that are symetrical so forth.
The traditions go in that kind of (limited) direction.
Perhaps then I would give the second knowledge of creativity as an understanding of modern approach. This approach makes the symetrical become asymetrical, or uses contrast. Tradition is usually not like that but tends to be linear.”
What if the students are from the city?
“Well if the students are from the city, that also depends. Sometimes the students who grew up in cities also want to understand the traditions. That comes from their boredom with the city, it can happen. But their are of course people that are happy with their cities experience, their urban life and so on. Well,…they can also be guided,I mix it with new knowledges of traditions. I am flexible really. But the direction in current times is the returning to look at traditions.”
Is there a difference between dancers that have a city body or a traditional body?
“Well the anatomy is the same, technique of course is the main achievement but the product is different and the result in expression id different. Example, someone with a strong traditional experience would not be over expressive in movement. But someone from the city…sometimes how they explore is usually over expressive. Being over expressive comes from being already familiar with practices and habits coming from learned bodily exercises that overwhelms the traditional person. But this does not mean that it can be considered or viewed as a deficiency or negativity in traditional people, sometimes this over expressing can’t be done by city folk either.”