Javanese dance practice - Indonesia, 2019

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THR or People's Entertainment Park is a historic location in Surabaya since the Dutch era which was formerly called Jaar Markt, which means the night market. In its development after independence in the night market there was a theater, and the tradition for traditional performance buildings was the existence of ‘tobong’ as an artist settlement. The location of THR has until now been sustainably preserved by the ‘tobong’ tradition to the surrounding of the theater building, where artists lived. It was at the THR location that the career of national artists grew, including comedians Asmuni, Tarzan, Mamiek, Tessy and others.

The THR location by the Surabaya city government was called the THR Art Village (Kampung Seni THR), at that location there was a UPTD (the implementing part under the goverment) that took care of THR Art Village, for decades artists had grown up in the form of ‘tobong’ around the traditional performance buildings like Ludruk, Ketoprak, Wayang Orang (Puppet People) and Srimulat. The dynamics of life occur, there are those who have made product sales stands until artists need to pay retribution, as well as the presence of electricity, artists also pay for electricity, but since January 2019 artists are prohibited from paying for electricity. The water in the settlement is obtained from the wellbore. For decades inhabiting, until then gave birth to children who later studied with artists in the village of art and now has become a professional artist specialized in traditional performances that are sold well rented by clients both residents of Surabaya and outside the city.

In the Art Village, there is a rare art education, almost nothing in other places. Art education in the family and village environment. The art education from the process of their children took part in watching the performances of their parents and older siblings, then when they wanted to take part in an easy role for the children. Until then this role continued and was upgraded to become increasingly difficult, until finally becoming a traditional artist with high proficiency. The mastery was from theatrical arts, fine Javanese language for ketoprak and wayang orang performances, tembang arts, traditional dance and gamelan arts (Javanese traditional music).

This rare art education is threatened to be displaced by the Surabaya City Government Project. Currently in a condition that is depressed because of facing the third subpoena from the Surabaya District Prosecutor's Office until June 30, 2019 tomorrow must leave THR Art Village. What is the project plan for what designation, the shape, the layout, how it is not clear, whether it is informed to the citizens of Surabaya or the residents of the THR Art Village. There is a discourse for artists who have ID card oh the city of Surabaya to be given a place in a flat, but which haunts them when they have to rent, which is not necessarily able to be fulfilled by traditional artists. The discourse also for artists who have ID cards outside the city of Surabaya is not permitted to reside in Surabaya, whether or not their traditional art skills are good or not. It did not matter for decades what they had contributed to the citizens of Surabaya, especially in preserving traditional Javanese arts and culture.

Children of artists who usually gather in the village, practice dancing twice a week, young people gather and chat while practicing traditional comedy treasures, songs, performances and others become threatened to be scattered, some live in flats and there are who was told to go back to his village. Arts education in a good village environment is threatened to elimination. The tradition of ‘tobong’ is lost, traditional artistic processes do not take place in traditional education. Directed to another place that does not necessarily produce success, compared to when these artists survive naturally develop traditional arts and culture. Not all Surabaya city government projects are successful, there are several street vendors and parks that are less successful. It is feared that if the THR village revitalization project will also not succeed, then the development of traditional arts and culture in Surabaya will be even less qualified and increasingly shunned by the younger generation until it will become extinct.

Developing art and traditional culture is actually easy. Let artists develop naturally. The role of the government is enough to provide a large audience for these artists, so here and traditional culture will sustain itself. There is no need for the government to spend a lot of money on development projects, enough to improve THR Art Village. The budget can be used to establish regional regulations in accordance with national regulations regarding the preservation of local culture. For example by requiring schools to watch art shows regularly to learn fine Javanese language, learn traditional legends, understand the treasury of traditional dances and others. With good harmony and dialogue between the government, citizens and art actors, hopefully art and culture will remain sustainable in the city of Surabaya.

June 27th, 2019
Tjahja Tribinuka

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