Damarwulan is a Javanese legendary hero who appears in a cycle of stories adapted in the staging of traditional Javanese performing arts like the female dance opera langendriyan or the popular theatre form of ketoprak. These stories tell of the struggles between the Majapahit and Blambangan kingdoms, in which Damarwulan gains honour. On November 2, to highlight their annual performance, traditional dance company Padneçwara will stage the popular epic in the form of langendriyan at Sasono Langen Budoyo, the grand theatre of Taman Mini Indonesia Indah in Jakarta. To give more in-depth information about Langendriyan Damarwulan, Indonesia Tatler talks to Retno Maruti, choreographer and founder of the dance company in 1976.
What inspired you to create such an exciting dance opera like Damarwulan?
This dance was inspired by the legend of Damarwulan, a simple knight who loved his country, Majapahit. I wrote the piece in Solo in Central Java during the 1960s a with male and female cast in mind. Along the years, from one staging to another, I made some changes and adjustments, and the dance opera now showcases more choreography than songs.
What were the external factors that brought your attention to this tale?
Damarwulan was an inspiration to so many—that is why I am celebrating the character by way of creating a langendriyan. Although there were many knights who had supernatural powers, it was Damarwulan who stayed dedicated to Majapahit in its crusade against the wayward demon Minakjinggo.
The Damarwulan epic appears in a number of versions. Which is your benchmark?
I took the one by Raden Tumenngung Tondokoesoema. This was my first book about Damarwulan, and I used it as a benchmark. It is also the book of guidance of the Court of Mangkunegaran.
Aside from the all female dancers, what are the differences between the choreography today compared with that of the 1960s?
Over the years, I made a number of modifications and variation; some songs are out, and new songs are in, just so it’s not monotonous.
Are there other dances to be performed at the Padneçwara performance this year?
We prepared two dances. The one choreographed by Sulistyo Tirtokusumo, called Catur Sagatra, expands on the unity of the four courts of Java: Kasunanan Solo, Mangkunegaran, Kasultanan Yogya, and Pakualaman.