Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

South and Southeast Asian Artists Respond: A Concert to Honor and Aid Victims of the December 26 Tsunami

22. January 2005 • MarkDilley
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Wednesday, January 26, 2005
7:00 PM
Rackham Auditorium, The University of Michigan

The Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies and the International Institute at the University of Michigan, and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, with the support of other university programs, will present a concert of South and Southeast Asian dance and music to honor and aid victims of the earthquake and tsunami on December 26, 2004.

One month to the day after this tragedy, a distinguished group of Asian artists will come together to mark its effect on our community and our world. The principal performers are world-class professional dancers and musicians from Indonesia and India, all of them visitors in residence at U-M. Their performances, born of ancient cultures shaped in part by millennia of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, monsoons and floods, will serve as an observance for the University and Ann Arbor communities of lives lost and changed. The concert will also offer an opportunity for members of the audience to help with relief efforts through contributions to Oxfam, which is doing excellent work on the ground in South and Southeast Asia.

The concert’s headliner will be Didik Nini Thowok, a superb Indonesian dancer, who will be in residence at U-M for the week of January 23 – 29. Didik is a star in Indonesia, as a dancer, choreographer, and television actor. Unusual for traditional Javanese dance, he performs primarily women’s roles, dancing with such artistry that he often leaves audiences wondering whether they have been watching a man or a woman. He is particularly known for his mastery of a difficult technique called topeng dwi-muka, or “two faces” masked dance. Dancing both backwards and forwards, Didik switches between two characters, one for the mask worn on his face, and the other for the mask worn on the back of his head. His unparalleled abilities in this form can thoroughly confuse his audience as to which is forward, and which is backward: generating a compelling illusion upon a compelling illusion. Following his U-M residency, in February Didik will be the featured performer at a major concert for tsunami relief sponsored by the United States Indonesia Society and the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Washington DC.

Our second dancer is V.A. Gayathri, a prominent Bharatha Natyam dancer who is currently in residence at the U-M Center for World Performance Studies. Bharatha Natyam is an ancient and vibrant form of dance from Southern India; over two thousand years old, the form features complex and intricate footwork, fluid arm movements, an extensive vocabulary of hand gestures, eye, neck and head movements, and storytelling. An alumna of U-M, Gayathri has her family roots in Tamilnadu, the area of India most affected by the tsunami.

Our third and fourth performers, Pamardi, a master dancer and teacher from Indonesia, and Jun Wakabayashi, a master Butoh dancer from Japan, are artists-in-residence at the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. Together, they are leading a year-long Asian Theater Workshop for U-M students, working to generate a new visual/movement vocabulary for Asian theater. Their work in the fall semester has been striking, engaging, and poignant. The form is highly improvisational, building on the sense of space they feel at the time, with the movement developing from the flow of water within and through their bodies.

The program will be opened by the U-M Gamelan Ensemble, playing “Wilujeng,” a traditional Javanese piece that often begins gamelan concerts in Java. “Wilujeng” also translates to slamèt, the Javanese word from the same root as salaam and shalom. “Wilujeng” is traditionally played to bring peace and safety to the artists, the audience and the world. The gamelan will be led by Matheus Wasi Bantolo, artist-in-residence at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies from Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia.

We will also feature music from South Asia.

The concert is free and open to the public. Contributions in cash or check will be accepted for Oxfam-USA at the door. Suggested contributions are $5 or higher for students, and $10 or higher for others. Rehearsals for the concert will be open to the public between 1 pm and 5 pm, and contributions will be accepted at that time too.

In addition to the Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies, the International Institute and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, this concert is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments, and Arts at Michigan.

For more information, please contact the Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies at 734.764.0452, by email at csseas@umich.edu, or see our web pages at
www.umich.edu/~iinet/csas and www.umich.edu/~iinet/cseas and www.umich.edu/~iinet/cseas .



  1. It was a great show – and they raised over $5800 by the end of the show.
       —Edward Vielmetti    Jan. 26 '05 - 10:49PM    #
  2. Yeah—a fantastic event and a wonderful evening.
       —Brian    Jan. 27 '05 - 12:03AM    #