As most of life’s beginnings are small, so is Ratih Soe Kosasie’s. She first posed as a 16-year-old for a Canon shop in Malang. After moving to Malang from Blitar for university, Ratih started to model more seriously as a profession and not just a hobby. “In Surabaya, I was introduced by a Balinese friend to that era’s top model, Lisa Gunawan, and started to win competitions such as Top Model Indonesia 1985 by model and designer Rahadian Yamin,” Ratih said.
She also actively sought work both in Surabaya and Jakarta for pocket money, interspersed with her studies in Business Administration. Armed with a job and a budget breakdown in hand, Ratih took a week off schooling each month and rode on the night bus to the metropolis. “Beforehand, I’d sent telegrams asking for a job to designers, magazines, choreographers, and so on,” said Ratih. Luckily, her teachers understood that she strived to earn good grades while pursuing her profession.
Being a model taught Ratih to be independent and disciplined. In search of new experiences, she then worked at a bank and held accounts for important clients thanks to her network in the modelling world. With her boundless energy, Ratih quickly outgrew the job, so she braved moving to Cambridge in the UK, first to learn English and then interior design.
“At first, I didn’t think much of this education as more than just knowledge to manage my own home,” Ratih said, “It turned out well now that my family owns a hotel in Bali and my friends often consult me regarding interior designs.”
Abroad, she met her future husband who would bring yet another adventure: tango. While he loves the music, for Ratih the tunes were boring and depressing—words that would prove otherwise once she agreed to see a performance in Bali around 10 years ago. “Deep within, it just clicked and I felt connected to the meanings conveyed by tango,” said Ratih. “The man and the woman are always connected and communicating with each other, be it near or far.” Thus began her journey in tango starting from a month-long, two-hour practice each day with maestro Roberto Herrera both to test her newfound passion and her commitment to it.
The month quickly passed to almost two years, when the late Maria Lukito approached her to dance at The Only One Club, or The O1, a few times a month. Maria further pushed Ratih to develop a unique identity in her dancing, and Ratih decided to dance in kebaya by Anne Avantie. Even more, Maria helped brought Ratih to the international tango circuit starting from a diplomatic event in Argentina in 2011.That year, with Ratih’s unique identity and Maria’s support, Tango in Paradise (TiP) started in Bali with touches of Indonesia such as last year’s Bali theme in which traditional dancers opened the festival.
Humanity is another side to the festival as the proceeds go to Yayasan Senyum Bali, which channels it for surgeries on children with craniofacial disabilities. This year’s TiP, however, was more special not only because of its last-minute relocation to grandkemang Jakarta due to Mt Agung’s eruption. “I dedicated the latest TiP to the late Ibu Maria, because without her role this tango festival wouldn't be,” said Ratih. “Ironically, she never could attend as her birthday coincided with the festival dates—but her presence and love both for me and tango is always felt throughout.”
Now enjoying all she is both in life and in tango, Ratih strives each year to gather at least three maestros for TiP while also rigorously training herself. She is even taking up rumba, as tested out once at last year's festival when Ratih paired up with the second-rank World Latin Professional dancer Stefano di Filippo after touch-and-go yearlong practice.
“I did say a few times that tango is the last dance I'd ever learn,” Ratih said. “But by learning other dances I can promote tango by reaching out to more dance communities.” Tango is still her top priority for now as the beat has also happily infecting her husband and two daughters.
This story appears on our February 2018 issue, grab yours at the nearest newsstands or subscribe here