Yayasan Pamulangan Beksa
One of the best place to learn and/or to watch the performance of Javanese classical court dance is at NDALEM (a court Joglo mansion) Pujokusuman, Jalan Brig.Jen. Katamso, East of keraton.
This is the home of Sasminta Mardawa Dance Foundation, faithfully with accurate dynamism practising the Yogyakarta court dance style.
Just like in the old tradition, the performance is held in the Pendopo (open hall). The magnificent beautiful and handsome dancers are moving elegantly following the rhythm, with deep consciousness and feeling, in the Pringgitan, the melodious gamelan music is being played by the Niyagas (gamelan players) dressed in traditional Javanese costume. The Pesinden (female and male) are singing with special beautiful voice.
The Pengeprak, the man who beats the Keprak, directs the performance. Keprak is a wooden slit drum which from time to time is beaten by the pengeprak who is usually a dance master. With the sound of keprak, he gives order to the dancers, to the gamelan players, to the singers.
For Wayang Wong play, the existence of Serat Kanda (The Book of Narration) and Serat Pocapan (The Book of Dialogue) are very important. All dramatic elements of Wayang Wong performance are written in the Serat Kanda. So the performance could be played in a harmonious coordination.
The dance teachers at Sasminta Mardawa are highly qualified and they have been dancing in nDalem Pujokusuman for years, they are proud to join Sasminta Mardawa dance club but above all they respect their beloved great Guru or Mahaguru the late K.R.T. Sasmintadipuro or Rama Sas, just everybody calls him with respect. (Rama means father in Javanese high level language).
Who is Rama Sasminta?
In the U.S, when Rama Sasminta visited University of Wisconsin, UCLA and other dance institutions to train the local dancers, he was very much respected and everybody called him the Maestro. Since his childhood, he had participated in the Yogyakarta keraton dance performance.
As a dance expert in keraton, he has been assigned many times to compose the classical court dance plays and to develop them in and outside the keraton. He dedicated his entire life to Javanese art and culture in the field of classical court dance of Yogyakarta style. Rama Sasminta has established dance schools, in 1962 the Mardawa Budaya and in 1976: Pamulangan Beksa Ngayogyakarta.
Since 1981, Sasminta Mardawa dance institution stages regular performance in nDalem (Mansion) Pujokusuman on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays evening. This performance has been recorded in the International Book for Record of Performance.
Besides local performance, the group has made successful performances abroad such as in: Asia, U.S, Latin America, and Europe.
The training session
It has a tight program for training education. Everyday, in the afternoon, except Fridays and Saturdays. The institution is opened for everybody interested to learn Yogyakarta style (Gagrak) of classical court dance. Foreigners are also welcome!
The good students (native and foreign) are programmed to participate in the performance. Donít be surprised, if in a dance performance (even in keraton!) there are some foreigners Ė dancers, could be from Japan, U.S. or Europe!
The name of the dance group, since this year has been named: Yayasan Pamulangan Beksa Sasminta Mardawa Yogyakarta, in respect of its founder the late Mr. Sasminta Mardawa.
The dance school foundation Sasminta Mardawa, Yogyakarta has to work hard to maintain its high name. After Rama Sas, passed away, his wife, Mrs. Siti Sutiyah Sasmintodipuro participates actively.
Nowadays, the executive broad are from younger generation, all of them are art lovers, experts in Javanese dance and determined to flourish this art. The members a.o. are:
The Chairman - Mr Bambang Pudjasworo, a lecturer of ISI & a dancer
Vice Chairman - Mr. Sumaryono
In charge of Training & Education - Mrs. Sasmintodipuro
In charge of Performance - Mr. Sunardi, a dance teacher of S.M.K.I.
In charge of P.R. - Mr. Arief Eko, a lecturer of I.S.I.
Mr. Bambang Pudjasworo, his friends call him Mas (brother) Bambing, he is from artist family. His father Pak Sudarso Pringgobroto, was one of ASTIís (dance Academy) founding fathers, he was also a guru of Javanese dance.
Mas Bambing and his sister joined Sasminta Mardawa in the eighties and they performed together in many occassions. In 1982, he continued his study in ASTI, which letter became ISI. In 1994 he got master degree in performing arts from Gajah Mada University.
At present, Mas Bambing, a father of 2 children, whose his wife is also a lecturer and dancer, is a dance lecturer at ISI-Yogyakarta. In 1990, for a spring quarter, he taught Javanese dance in University of California and now he is still dancing actively, with Sasminta Mardawa but sometime joins Pak Bagong Kussiardjoís performance.
The Board of Advisors are influential people of culture in Yogyakarta:
Mr. Wiyogo Atmodarminto - Ret. Lieut. General of the Army, Cultural observer
Prince Puger - Cultural expert
Prince Yudadiningrat - Cultural expert
Princess Pujokusumo - Cultural expert
R. Riyo Condroradono - Cultural expert
Mrs. Kusumanto - Cultural expert
R. Dytee Triwaluyo - Cultural expert
To support its existence, the foundation relies its income from contribution, performances and donators. The address of Yayasan Pamulangan Beksa Sasminta Mardawa Yogyakarta is:
nDalem Pujokusuman Mg V/45 B
The dance creation of Rama Sas
Rama Sas, is a very exceptional figure in the world of Javanese dance performance, preservation and development. He has created more than 100 plays of dance, and all of them are master-pieces.
What a remarkable and prestigious work! For what he has done, Rama Sas had been granted some appreciation from the Government of Indonesia.
One evening, sometime in June 1998, in the Pendopo of nDalem Pujokusuman, some foreigners together with their native friends were dancing during a training session, accompanied by live gamelan music.
Everybody should be lured upon seeing our sisters and brothers from other countries moving skillfully and correctly as in accordance with the magical sound of gamelan music, moreover, it is quite surprising they are dancing with "ROSO", a special Javanese term for the most inner deep feeling and conciousness. Thatís mean, they are able to master the philosophical meaning of the dance, moreover of every movement.
Congratulation to them and also to their gurus and Sasminta Mardawa Foundation.
Letís speak with some of them. A beautiful Californian girl, Karen E. Washburn, expressing her delight in Yogya with her own words:
Thank you for your kind comments on my dancing. It is wonderful to know that the art form I love so dearly, Javanese classical dance, is also loved and appreciated by so many other people. Thank you also for your encouragement, studying this art form will be a lifetime project for me.
Since I was a little girl, I have been interested in the arts. My grandfather was a music teacher (piano and violin) and so studying music has always been a part of my life. As I got older, however, I became more interested in dance and began seriously studying Jazz and modern dance at the age of 16. When I entered college at the University of California Los Angeles, a whole new world was opened to me as there is dance and music from all over the world taught there. It was here that I first encountered Javanese dance and music.
I arranged a study abroad program in 1993-1994 to Yogya and I spent the year studying language, dance, music, literature, and anthropology. It was this year that I completely fell in love with Javanese Music and dance, as well as Yogya.
I returned to UCLA to finish my degree (B.A. Antropology, Summa Cum Laude, 95) while also dancing with Nanik Wenten (the daughter of Pak Cokro) at California Institute of the Arts. I was fortunate enough to be granted a Fulbright Fellowhip to conduct anthropology research in Yogya this year (my topic is women is Islam), and in all my free time I study dance at ndalem Pujokusuman and at keraton Yogyakarta.
With the experiences and research I am doing, I hope to be able to transcend some of my love and experience of Javanese art and culture to people in my own country. I would eventually like facilitate an artistís exchange between American and Indonesia artists by creating a yayasan specifically for this purpose.
(Suryo S. Negoro)