Each year, during the first weekend in May, the Harvard University campus celebrates the Arts in all of their forms: visual arts, performing arts, music, dance, theater, and many more. During this year's Celebration, Harvard's Leverett House invited the ISFA to present several events on the Traditional Arts & Dance of West Sumatra, Indonesia.
The Cultural arts of West Sumatra have a unique place in the art world, spanning a broad range of disciplines from traditional dance, theater, and self-defense - to forms of natural healing and “meditations in motion”. The sessions began with a brief introductory lecture and video presentation of a traditional Minangkabau cultural wedding, showcasing the types of performances that typically accompany such an occasion. The renowned Syofyani’s Dance & Music Ensemble performed several dances, including the famous Candle & Plate Dance, which was performed with lit candles in hand and bare feet on a bed of broken glass. Afterward, the audience had the opportunity to reflect on what they had just seen, and to also try the movements themselves.
Although the audience members did not have any prior first-hand experience with Indonesian or Southeast Asian dance, each person connected in some way to the movements they tried and the demonstrations and performances they witnessed.
Everyone tried the movements: children, parents, Harvard students and staff, and community members alike. There was a deep appreciation expressed for the uniqueness of the movements; one participant remarked in admiration, “they feel so connected.” For some, the movements reminded them of systems of movement from their own traditional cultures, such as with tai chi or yoga. While for others, the music was reminiscent of something they might hear in a traditional cultural setting from elsewhere in Asia. Overall, the participants were happy to learn something new about another culture, and were glad to be able to relate the experience in some way to their own life and background.
The sessions offered a small window into a unique culture and way of life for many of the participants. Several asked for training recommendations in the various places they would be traveling to for the summer, while others expressed further interest in the music. Though mainly, many simply wanted to know when they would have another opportunity to watch upcoming performances by the ISFA.
ISFA would like to extend special thanks to our gracious hosts at Leverett House, including Lauren Brandt, Leverett House Tutor and Coordinator of Sophomore Advising, who we also congratulate on her recent appointment to the Resident Dean position for the House.
For more information about the ISFA, training opportunities, and upcoming events, write to us here.
Here are some more images from the campus of Harvard University and other ARTS First activities:
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