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[Review] NUANSA ’13: Dance of the Earth

Credit: Kevin T. Fridianto
Credit: Kevin T. Fridianto

“It just so happens, the biggest sob story…is me.”

The catchy and comical lyric of Sob Story – a theme song from the musical production NUANSA ’13: Dance of the Earth (DOTE) is still playing in the mind of audience and crew alike, days after the spectacular performance at the University Cultural Centre (UCC) Hall.  NUANSA ’13, which opened to a full house on Sunday, 6th October, received overwhelming positive reaction from member of audience. Praises had been sung not only for the brilliant performance of the actors but also for the extraordinary sets, lighting, music and costumes.

Arguably the biggest musical production by students in NUS, NUANSA (an acronym for NUS and Indonesia, which also means ‘subtle difference’ in Bahasa Indonesia) was started in 2007 as a musical production created by Indonesian students in NUS. Even so, the performance produced this year is called to be “the best yet” even by previous NUANSA crews.

Shouts and cheers flooded the UCC hall at 7:30 as the NUANSA spotlight was dimmed and the curtains opened showing the silhouette of four traditional Balinese dancers. Yes, the theme of this year’s NUANSA is Indonesia’s famous island, Bali. The script itself is creatively adapted from “Tarian Bumi” – a novel by an Indonesian novelist and poet, Oka Rusmini.

Dance of the Earth tells the story of Sekar (Adinda Ayu Savitri), a young girl from a lower caste, Sudra, who has the aspiration to be a Balinese dancer, a profession which was perceived highly and usually done by beautiful Brahman (higher caste) girls. Her father, Pandya (Sergio Rinaldi), committed suicide (Scene 3), leaving she and her blind mother (Steffanie Octavia) with debts. Fortunately, she was not completely alone: a young, innocent, sweet boy named Wayan (Alvin Surya Tjahyo) and a feminist, strong young girl, Kenten (Inge Kosasih) where her friends and adored her. She also used the tragedy in her family to manipulate people around her to sympathise  and help her as clearly seen in energetic, cheerful and humorous ‘Market’ scene.

Market Scene.  Credit: David Wirawan
Market Scene.
Credit: David Wirawan

Her stubbornness and perseverance paid off when she became the lead dancer of a huge Pagelaran (Balinese dance performance). There she met a rich and powerful Brahman, Ida Bagus Ngurah Pidada (Gregorius Ivaniddo), where she seduced him to marry her and thus higher her status from a Sudra to a Brahman.

She married Pidada in a grand wedding which saddens Pidada’s mother (Fenny Fong) and garner whispers of mocking from fellow Brahmans. Everything seemed to go well for Sekar, who has changed to her Brahman name: Kenanga, even more when she gave birth to her daughter, Telaga. Her husband, however, started to show his drunk and abusive side which was exacerbated by his loss in the village leader election.

Mockery Credit: Kevin T, Fridianto
Mockery
Credit: Kevin T, Fridianto
Wedding Credit: David Wirawan
Wedding
Credit: David Wirawan

 

Frightened for the safety of her daughter and in the state of madness and confusion, she told her now assistant, Kenten, that she was going to kill Pidada. Kenten tried to reason with her but she was adamant about her decision and an argument started. In the heat of the moment, Kenten kissed Sekar, professing her love for her, but Sekar felt disgusted and wronged that she left Kenten in despair.

Credit: David Wirawan
Credit: David Wirawan

Sekar dramatically ended Pidada’s life, showing her erratic side (singing the reprise of several songs sung before in the much darker, twisted version) to the audience for a pure purpose of protecting her child. After the murder, she was held in a prison and Wayan waited for her to come out to be with her. The performance was closed by a traditional ritual, Ngaben, where the Pidada’s body was cremated. On the background, Sekar confessed regretfully to her crime and Pidada’s mother cried for the loss of her only child.

Credit: David Wirawan
Credit: David Wirawan
Credit: David Wirawan
Credit: David Wirawan

While the story line was at most moments very dark and sad, the script writers and song writers were successful to bring the house down through witty line, local jokes or even small gestures delivered with ease by the actors. The main actors were also well supported by an ensemble of supporting cast and elegant and beautiful dancers who complement the two-hour show.

From the beginning of the show to the curtain call, the audience were awed, surprised, emotionally captivated and, most importantly, entertained by the night full of talent. When the member of audience entered NUANSA ’14 in their next year’s calendar of event while walking out of UCC, the production team now has the new challenge of presenting an even better performance next year.