We are sitting in the airport in Bali, Indonesia, as the sun sets outside and the waves lap in from the surrounding ocean. Two trolley-loads of luggage are parked near our tables in the restaurant with wifi. We just finished shooting the Pekalongan Menari dancers yesterday, beginning at 6 a.m. and not returning to our rooms until after 10 p.m. The beauty of Indonesia is seamless--natural wonders, gorgeous architecture and art, and most of all, the people. Here, I run out of adjectives. Kind hearts, elegant dance, warmth and generosity--and a deep love of God.
Upon our arrival, we were delighted to meet the dancers of Pekalongan Menari, who wore t-shirts designed for "Dancing Joy." A press conference to introduce the project was held at the prestigious Hotel Sidji, an historic landmark building turned into an elegant hotel. We enjoyed meeting representatives of both media and business communities, as well as several NGO leaders, and sharing the film's concept and goals.
Early the following mornign, we shot the main dances at the Museum Batik, next to the golden-domed Masjid al Ikhlash. Many people watched in fascination as the dancers performed beautiful traditional movements to Beethoven's stirring music. The setting was very appropriate: Pekalongan is in central Java, one of two dozen provinces in the Indonesian archiplelago. It is the home of the amazing textile art known worldwide as "Batik," a painstaking process of designing and dying cloth using wax and natural plant dyes. Batik artists pray as they illustrate the cloth's patterns, much like the monks in Europe prayed as they illustrated the copies of the Scripture.
Interestingly, the Pekalongan Menari dancers incorporated the batik culture into their choreography. The delicately dyed cloth, used in their costumes, was used as a part of the dance itself. They also included the postures and gestures of deep respect shown by younger to elders, as well as the gentle movements expressing harmonious response to all things.
After the main shoot, the dancers and crew traveled to the provincial capital of Pekalongan, where the Governor Asip and his first lady added their support to the film. Mrs. Asip, an ambassador of Batik to the entire world, demonstrated the method of wearing the traditional fabric as an elegant skirt. Later, she presented us with scarves handmade in Pekalongan! We were so honored. We met all the ministers of the local government, and enjoyed a beautiful performance by our film's dancers of the local spiritual dance form called "Sinteren." We also met the amazing musical troupe, Suma Budhaya, who composed and performed the accompaniment.
The artistry and deep heart of the people can be seen in the dance; one movement involves a kneeling position, from which the dancer moves forward in a graceful bent-knee position, which represents the humility and deep respect shown for elders and for the teachers and honored ones of the society. The gentle flowing movements represent one of the core values of the society to flow with all things, bringing harmony even when circumstances are difficult. Ms. Jacintha and Ms. Arofah, along with Mr. Isman, helped us understand the significance of each movement, of the batik cloth of their costumes, and the incredible hard work of the dancers--and all the community--to prepare for the filming. We felt we met long-lost family in Pekalongan. We can't wait to return to this jewel of a city, and to bring many, many friends with us!