Subtle, slow and elegant are some of the features of Javanese courtly dances, the bedoyo, that go back to Indonesia’s 7th century, when they were performed in palaces under the sponsorship and choreography of the sultans ruling the island.
The dance, which will be performed in the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saturday at 5pm, is not just an artistic show, according to Indonesian-born producer Robert van den Bos.
“It is a mirror of how to be Javanese, how to be pure, how to be good and religious, how to get along with society,” said Mr van den Bos. “It is always the same story, good and bad. All choreography is inspired by this idiom and metaphor. Javanese is crucial in Indonesia. “Polite language, etiquette, noble and not showing your emotions: that’s the characteristic of the Javanese.”
The Indonesian island of Java, may be best known as the world’s most populous island, but one of its most important features are the dances espoused by the ruling Sultans. Until this day, the sultans, Yogyakarta in Java, are involved in the court dances’ choreography and a member of the royal family travels with the dance troupe to perform internationally.
Princess Mangkubumi of Royal Palace of Yogyakarta, an accomplished dancer herself, is overseeing the courtly dance show at the Louvre, which will be accompanied by an opening dance and another mask dances.
The Indonesian dance is the first show of the Louvre’s post-opening events programme that seeks to bring artists from all over the world to perform in the museum, which has been open since November 2017.
“It is very rare for an event to see a group like this with the princess,” said Mr Van den Bos. “This is really the best that you can get.”
Many influences have permeated into the courtly dance: Indian, Islamic and Dutch.
The sultans “always have to find a way how to be themselves and meet the demand of the rulers, that’s why you can hear a trumpet in the orchestra, you can hear a snare drum which is absolutely not Javanese,” said Mr Van den Bos. “Instead of opposing the invaders they adopt, and so do the dances: the red mask is a foreigner, white/green mask is Javanese.”