Indonesian dancers keep the beat for ancient drag tradition

By RockedBuzz 6 Min Read

Lengger Lanang is performed by men dressed as Javanese princesses, wearing tight, colorful batik dresses and ornaments woven into their fake hair bun updos.

Lengger Lanang is carried out by males dressed as Javanese princesses, carrying tight, colourful batik attire and ornaments woven into their pretend hair bun updos.

JAKARTA – Indonesian dancer Rianto strikes gracefully in entrance of 1000’s in the capital Jakarta, rocking his orange sash and full make-up as he performs a centuries-old people dance frowned upon by conservatives.

The Lengger Lanang dance tradition is rooted in sixteenth century fertility and harvest rituals from the Central Java province.

It has since develop into an artwork type that challenges inflexible beliefs about masculinity in a really conservative and non secular society.

Lengger Lanang males dressed as Javanese princesses, carrying colourful batik attire and ornaments woven into their buns make pretend hair updos.

But the tradition has virtually disappeared in the Muslim-majority nation, with fewer than 100 performers courageous sufficient to participate in exhibits.

“Lengger continues to be regarded down upon and stigmatized negatively,” Rianto, a 42-year-old dancer and choreographer, instructed AFP.

“People nonetheless see males dancing as one thing that goes towards the norm,” mentioned Rianto, who like many Indonesians has one identify.

Backed by vigorous Javanese beats and melodies, the dancers transfer their hips, flick their fingers and solid seductive glances at the viewers in the Jakarta theater.

The performers crack jokes in deep baritone voices, reminding their viewers that, whereas carrying attire, they’re males.

“Lengger Lanang is the place the masculine and female meet inside one physique and is aimed toward creating peace inside oneself,” mentioned Rianto, who’s married to a Japanese girl.

– Exhausted artwork –

Lengger was a well-liked people artwork at a time when performers who might embody each genders had been idolized and revered.

But it’s being challenged as prejudice towards something perceived as harsher grows.

A 2018 movie about dancer Lengger Lanang loosely based mostly on Rianto’s life obtained reward from the tax however was banned in a number of Indonesian cities after conservatives mentioned it promoted homosexuality.

In the city of Banyumas Central Java, the place Lengger Lanang was born, an artwork competition organized in September is one in every of the few locations the place the artwork type could be overtly celebrated.

Dancing was as soon as thought-about a sacred tradition in the village.

“It was a post-harvest ritual to thank the goddess of fertility, later tailored in the type of leisure, generally to welcome a giant visitor,” mentioned Lynda Susana Ayu Fatmawati, a cultural researcher at Jenderal Soedirman University.

Even at present, to develop into a Lengger Lanang dancer, one should bear a number of cleaning rituals equivalent to fasting, bathing in the springs, and meditation.

Before every efficiency, the dancers mild incense, and lay out flower petals and coconuts as choices to God.

– ‘The chosen ones’ –

Although the dance is rooted in tradition, some conservative Muslims say males mustn’t gown or act like ladies.

“In Islam, it’s clear {that a} man mustn’t gown or act like a lady, and vice versa. The prophet condemned it,” mentioned Taefur Arofat, chairman of the Banyumas Ulema Council, the city’s prime Islamic physique.

For Rianto and different dancers, that perspective made on a regular basis life troublesome.

“It may be very troublesome to be a male dancer. The stigma from the public may be very detrimental as a result of dancing is related to femininity,” mentioned Rianto.

Another Torra Buana dancer mentioned he needed to keep his dancing a secret.

“I obtained it as soon as from my household. Some individuals checked out it as one thing detrimental,” mentioned the 47-year-old.

“But not all males can do that,” he mentioned, referring to his dance type. “Only the chosen ones are blessed by God.”

Not all Indonesians have an issue with tradition.

“It is artwork and we should stop it from disappearing,” mentioned the viewers Hendro Utomo after the Jakarta present.

Rianto has established Rumah Lengger, a middle the place younger dancers can follow and be taught the philosophy behind the artwork.

One of the younger prodigies is Ayi Nur Ringgo, who fell in love with the tradition after watching movies at college.

After taking it, he needed to face detrimental feedback from colleagues.

“I made peace with myself and my energy,” he mentioned.

“I do not care anymore.”

Under Rianto’s wing, he and his fellow dancers are working to keep the tradition alive.

“I wish to proceed and regenerate this tradition,” mentioned Rianto.

“Don’t let this fade away.”

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