3 November 2017.
When Indonesian dancemaker Eko Supriyanto came to Melbourne earlier this year for AsiaTOPA, there were many who hoped he would soon return; so the recent short season of his acclaimed solo work SALT was eagerly embraced by those who knew of his reputation for exquisite artistry.
As the founder of Ekos Dance Company and Solo Dance Studio in Surakarta, Supriyanto is Indonesia’s pre-eminent contemporary choreographer, having worked on projects as diverse as Lion King, Le Grande Macabre and Madonna’s Drowned World. With SALT, however, the terrain is much closer to home. Indeed, it is a piece rooted in nature and our place within it.
With a movement palette drawn from martial arts, court dances and Western grammar, Supriyanto brings the precise gestural aesthetic of the broader South East Asian tradition (with its roots in Hindu and Buddhist ritual) into collision with the more free flowing fluidity of contemporary dance and the incisive muscularity of the Indonesian Pencak Silat martial art regimen. The result is a spellbinding duality, a piece at once lithe and elastic, yet also finely detailed and statuesque.
In essence, SALT appears to tease out the textures and impacts of dualities, especially those around water and the ocean. We are majoritively composed of water, as indeed is the surface of our world. We absolutely rely on it, and yet it can drown and destroy. Likewise, salt — an invaluable substance, yet a mineral that also renders most of the planet’s water undrinkable and can erode the fertility of soil, quite aside from what it might do to our blood pressure. Throughout the piece, Supriyanto genuflects, resists and floats by turns, navigating his way through a space that both gives and takes life.
The work is also undeniably ceremonial, almost a prayer for the sea to deliver of its bounty. Given that Indonesia is an archipelago sprawled across an expanse of equatorial ocean, SALT is a form of homage. And yet, for all the reverence, it speaks to humankind’s capacity for intervention and control, our deeply embedded, highly conflicted master/slave relationship with earth, sea and sky.
Throughout it all, Supriyanto moves with rigour and energy. His technical discipline and attention to fine detail (punctuated elbows, cocked wrists, splayed fingers) is here in abundance, but also the more emotive aspects of sensual flow and surrender.
With it’s simple but honed production, SALT is an engaging and mesmeric solo work underwritten by its creator’s sheer physical ability and driven by Dimawan Krisnowo Adji’s supple cross-cultural score. Overall, the effect is that of humanity in the face of the immensity; fragile, futile and yet boldly, implacably determined to persist.
By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.