The lights dimmed and the curtain was raised one drizzly February night as Ida Praetorius and Ulrik Birkkjær from the Royal Danish Ballet, dressed in matching green and yellow folk costumes, sweetly walked hand-in-hand as Rosa and Paolo.
The two then stopped mid-stage and gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes before Paolo tried to kiss Rosa—a kiss that she evaded shyly with light steps. The Flower Festival in Genzano opened the “International Ballet Star Gala” at Taman Ismail Marzuki’s Teater Jakarta.
After resting her pointe shoes from her world travels in 2007, Juliana Tanjo started anew by opening a dance shop and studio to supply well-known, good-quality international brands of ballet equipment. Dance teachers and students from all around Indonesia soon started to order from her as it was unique.
“From these teachers and students, I found out that they wish to have a local masterclass or summer school for ballet,” Juliana said. “But back then, there were no such classes and even performances were rare.”
That night’s gala saw a full house with only one or two empty chairs between groups of eager visitors who showered applause on all the dancers, including Sofia Gumerova and Igor Kolb from Mariinsky Ballet. They lit up the stage with passion as Carmen, the gypsy, and Don Jose, the soldier—from the opera of the same name—courted each other.
Sofia returned after a 20-minute intermission and whisked the audience to tears as she danced the Dying Swan, choreographed by Michel Fokine after music by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns.
Later on, Igor’s equally riveting performance with a green apple on Beginning—reminiscent of the Son of Man painting by Henri Magritte and accompanied by Erik Satie’s mysterious “Gnossienne no. 1”—evoked laughter as he rolled the apple off-stage and then asked a lady to return it.
“All the roles we dance become part of us and there’s no division between the two,” Igor said. Sofia added: “It’s always interesting since you put yourself through the story and breathed life into it.”
The journey to the gala started in 2012 when Juliana arranged a masterclass under her shop’s name and invited two international dancers to teach. Two years passed and the need for more education grew and so, through the Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing qualification the studio has, Juliana started opening summer schools, which attracted hundreds of participants.
Next, she started the Indonesia Dance Society in 2015 to support dance through education, live performances and encouragement. The same year after its founding, IDS’s first major event was a dance prix, which has since continued to the third competition this year in April. This, naturally, led to a need for true performances as opposed to school-hosted ones.
IDS’s goals came to fruition at the gala as the audience responded well to the famously bittersweet pas de deux between Giselle and Albrecht—danced by husband-and-wife team Ohm Jae Yong and Hwang Hye Min from Universal Ballet Korea.
Upon returning to the stage, Hye Min and Jae Yong again showed electrifying chemistry, dressed in beautiful hanbok-inspired costumes, as Sim Cheong and the king dancing “Moonlight Pas de Deux”—an adaptation from Korean folktale Sim Cheong about a devoted girl who sacrificed herself to cure her blind father. “This pas de deux is unique as it represents both our company’s style and also our country’s culture,” Jae Yong said.
However, this wasn’t IDS’s first time inviting an international star: “Last August, IDS invited Miko Fogarty, an emerging young ballerina from the UK, the response was good,” said Juliana. “Then, I thought, ‘Why don't we bring the best 10 to Indonesia?’, which was not yet the case.”
To ensure success for IDS’s first gala, which was also an effort to put Indonesia on the ballet gala circuit, Juliana worked together with Wang Tzer-Shing—a veteran Taiwanese dancer turned to promoter and director at Art Wave ballet studio—who annually held the Taiwan International Ballet Star Gala.
Lorena Feijoo, a frequent fixture in Taiwan’s Gala, came to Indonesia with Tiit Helimets from the San Francisco Ballet, whom she asked for a replacement of her injured partner, Carlos Quenedit, from the same company.
Go to Page 153 of Indonesia Tatler's March 2017 issue for the full report and more exclusive pictures.
(Photo by Irwan Kurnia)