As part of ArtsEquator’s series of interviews profiling festival directors in Southeast Asia, we get to learn more about Maria Darmaningsih, co-founder and current artistic director of the bi-annual Indonesian Dance Festival (IDF), which was launched in 1992. Its 14th edition this year runs from 6 – 10 November 2018 with pre-event programmes taking place before and after the main event.
Tell us about your journey with the IDF and what inspired you to be part of the founding of the festival.
I have been dancing since I was a kid, and my family are very much into the arts and culture. I am a graduate of Bachelor of Arts at the ISI Yogyakarta and Bachelor of Dance Anthropology, a programme by Jakarta Arts Institute in collaboration with University of Indonesia. I received a scholarship from the Ford Foundation for my Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Lethbridge, Canada. I have learned classical dances from maestros like Romo Sasminto (Javanese dance, Yogyakarta style), Irawati Durban (Sundanese dance), and Bulan Trisna (Balinese dance), and I am a lecturer of Dance Literature, Dance in Various Cultures and Audience Guidance at the Faculty of Performing Arts of the Jakarta Arts institute since 1987.
Indonesian Dance Festival is related to Festival Penata Tari Muda (Young Choreographers Festival) that was held by the Jakarta Arts Council during the dance development in Indonesia between the 1970s-1980s era. Unfortunately the festival was forced to stop, and in response to that, my colleagues and I were concerned about the future of the dance scene in Indonesia. This is the reason why we funded IDF in 1992, to create a space for young potential Indonesian choreographers.
You became the director of IDF in 2010. What was your vision for the festival, and what are some things you learnt from previous directorships?
Our vision has stayed the same, as a space for potential young Indonesian choreographers to showcase their work. We also feature international choreographers and performers in order to create dialogues in between cultures. This dialogue and this event in general is necessary for the development of the contemporary dance scene in Indonesia.
Our key principles and values since the beginning have been about creating a space for Indonesian youths to showcase their work. The one thing that stayed the same since the beginning is the challenge we have in finding financial support – this is something we struggle with at each time IDF is held. The first IDF in 1992 was only held for two days and only involved Indonesian choreographers and performers. At the second IDF and onwards, we had international performers from only one or two other countries. In the past approximately 10 years we have been able to involve many international choreographers and performers at IDF, with more than five countries involved, and it takes place for longer periods of days.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in running the IDF during your time as the director?
The challenge is that IDF is not a government programme, and even though the government supports us, it isn’t fully, and we struggle to find other sponsors in order for IDF to take place every two years. But this is as well a blessing in disguise; we have observed in other festivals around the country and abroad that were government programmes, that the moment the government stops its funding, the festival stops as well. As IDF is an independent festival partially supported by the government, we will still continue to hold IDF no matter what.
Can you share your thoughts about how the Indonesian dance scene has changed in the past 26 years? How has the IDF responded to, or contributed to, the growth of the dance scene?
Nowadays in Indonesia, it’s not only about the dance scene, but the performing arts scene, which involves theatre and fine arts. Dance is no longer only about dancing, but the use of various mediums. Having IDF as a space for young choreographers, many young emerging choreographers become known internationally through IDF. We have many international presenters, performing arts buyers, and festival directors attending the IDF as observers; IDF becomes a performing arts market for international buyers to choose Indonesian choreographers to showcase abroad.
What can audiences look forward to in IDF 2018?
Our theme this year is “Demo/cratic Body: How Soon Is Now?”: about body movements and the political situation in Indonesia. IDF 2018 involves seven countries and we will also have pre-IDF events and post-IDF events, which hasn’t been done before. This year we are also involving many dance studios and communities in Jakarta, as well as the yoga community in our series of events.
The Indonesian Dance Festival 2018 runs from 6 – 10 November 2018, with pre-event programmes taking place from 1 November and post-event programmes taking place until 23 November. Find out more about the Indonesian Dance Festival and this year’s programmes here.