Sekar Jaya Presents a Family Affair at Ashkenaz

Gamelan Sekar Jaya shows April 30 at Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center.


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Dance and music are intertwined in Sekar Jaya’s Balinese entertainment.

Gamelan Sekar Jaya is one of those cultural institutions that enliven the Bay Area whether performing at the SF Ethnic Dance Festival, Cal Performances, or the Cowell Theater at the San Francisco International Arts Festival (June 2-3, 2017). These are mostly larger scale proscenium performances. At the end of this month, however, Sekar Jaya will take its dancers and musicians to the intimacy of the Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center where world dance and music have found a home for more than 40 years.

In Bali, dance and music—as in many traditional cultures—are tightly interwoven and often originated—and, in some cases, are still used—in ritual practices. However, they also offer splendid entertainment.

For the Ashkenaz concert, guest dance director Emiko Saraswati Susilo put together a family-friendly program for which children don’t have to sit quietly for two hours. “We will also showcase some of our younger performers in something that they can get their teeth into,” she explained. “When we think of longtime viability of the arts, it is really important that children see other children perform.”

Sekar Jaya’s performers are often skilled in both music and dance. Saraswati Susilo is one of them. She recently realized that the musicians had a difficult time with an intricate rhythmic pattern that was to go with a dance. So she had them stand up and do three simple dance gestures. It worked. “They had integrated it into their bodies,” she happily realized.

The program will include the gentle tingklik, performed on bamboo “xylophones” whose breathy sounds recall wind in the trees. They are still played in villages after a long day’s work. Adult and young dancers then join the angklung—bamboo instruments with brass resonators—whose 20 performers usually take their cues from the drummer.

And how could a Balinese music and dance concert not include the raucous yet ever-so-disciplined genjek/kecak, popularly known as the monkey dance? It may be difficult to believe that originally this was a communal invocation to the gods. Don’t be surprised if Sekar Jaya’s version also reminds you of drinking songs. That’s exactly what they are.

Gamelan Sekar Jaya, April 30, 2 p.m., $8 kids, $15 general admission, babies in arms free, Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-525-5054. Ashkenaz.com.

 

Published online on April 24, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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