Javanese mesmerise at Rainbow
It really was poetry in motion as dancers from a remote East Javanese rainforest village wowed the crowd on Mallee sand at Rainbow.
The sand stage, which had been made by volunteer Llew Schilling over two busy days before the performance, was decorated with a backdrop of floodlit eucalypts.
In a world first, the young dancers and musicians from the East Javanese Sampang Agung Centre for Performing Arts presented their haunting Dry Leaf dance to a crowd of more than 300 enthralled spectators.
It was the culmination of a busy week of activities in the Southern Mallee town, which involved more than 60 performers from eight countries and more than 150 school children participating in workshops.
Named Embodied Landscape, the performance and workshop project was part of Oasis Rainbow’s Small Town Transformation which began late in 2016 and runs until the end of this year.
It has seen the community refurbish and revitalise the former vacant primary school through a series of arts projects.
The visitors from East Java have a similar story.
Locals from the remote village of Pelem, Deasylina da Ary and Agung Gunawan, developed Sampang Agung Centre for Performing Arts, SACPA, as a place where children could find joy, discipline, friendship and play through performing arts.
Last month these villagers embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Australia, which began with an official farewell from their local governor.
Saturday’s event, which also included an afternoon of 20 short pop-up shows in Rainbow streets, illustrated the positive impact of community-led arts projects.
Federal Street was alive with dancers, clanging kitchen utensils, haunting cries, music, colour and movement as scores of spectators wandered enthusiastically from show to show.
The action moved to the former school in the evening where Rainbow farmer Peter Gosling played two of his compositions and SACPA members sang and danced.
This was followed by a selection of songs and dances from the Wimmera’s Wotjobaluk community about creation, bees, hawks and mosquitoes.
The evening ended with the Javanese dancers’ Dry Leaf, a flowing choreography depicting dry leaves, blowing freely and gliding and slicing through the air.
Heather Drendel, who lives near Rainbow, described the day as ‘brilliant’.
“When the committee first talked about it, it sounded such a massive undertaking and to see it come to fruition, this really is something to be commended,” she said.
Bill Neve, who travelled with wife Hennie from Wartook in the northern Grampians, said it was a privilege to have such an event in the region.
“Their movements are so fluid – it is like, there are no bones in them,” he said.
Event director Dianne Dickson, who lives in Rainbow and has also visited SACPA, said Rainbow people had a tradition of opening their homes and hearts to others.
“And this was just a fabulous opportunity to have two ancient cultures connecting and collaborating on our ancient landscape,” she said.
Agung Gunawan said the journey to Rainbow was not only significant for the performers, but also their proud families and village in Java.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said.
POETRY IN MOTION: Javanese dancers perform Dry Leaf, a flowing choreography depicting dry leaves, blowing freely and gliding and slicing through the air and below, Indonesian performer Kien Faye Lee performs Route 76. Pictures: MELISSA POWELL