Curating Dance in Indonesia: Choreographing a Space for Self Inquiry and Socio-Political Engagement

The Politics of Art in Southeast Asia Seminar Series

About the Seminar

Dance connects individuals to their community as well as with nature in agrarian Indonesia where nature and culture are inextricably linked. In the many ethnic cultures of the country, dance is practiced as rituals to celebrate the harvest or to ward off evil spirits. It is also a response to the drumbeat of 21st century modernity as seen in the dance/dancing in malls, TV variety shows, or as visualisations of pop songs on video clips. In both contexts, dance/dancing and its choreography are political endeavours that can be perceived as an offering to the divine, embodiment of human expressions, representation of ideas, or an exercise for critical thinking about oneself and the socio-political reality one lives in.

Curators as cultural figure might be a relatively new insertion into the context of Indonesian dance although, as a practice, curating dance has had a long history in Indonesia. Arguably I might have been the first to use ‘dance curator’ as a professional descriptor in the Indonesia context although historically, other terms such as artistic director or festival programmer had been employed in the country for similar work since the 1950s. I would further argue that President Sukarno was Indonesia’s first dance (and arts) curator.

This seminar will examine my different curatorial projects in an attempt to understand what curating dance means in Indonesia since the crushing defeat for the Left. It will review my curatorial work with the Jakarta Arts Council –– once an ideal model and structure inherited from the country’s 1968 historical moment –– and my co-curating of three editions of the Indonesian Dance Festivals over the past six years. It will address (the absence of) dance history and its historiography, reflect on the challenges, and speculate on possible directions that dance can take in addressing and choreographing a space for self-inquiry and political engagement in Indonesia.

This seminar is supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).

About the Speaker

Helly Minarti was born and grew up in Jakarta. She works as an independent, itinerant dance scholar/curator, rethinking radical strategies to connect theory and practice. She is interested in historiographies of choreography as discursive practice vis-a-vis the eclectic knowledges that infuse the understanding of human body/nature. She worked as Head of Arts for the British Council Indonesia (2001-03) which set her off to curating. Her most recent curatorial project is Jejak-旅 Tabi Exchange: Wandering Asian Contemporary Performance, an exchange platform that takes the format of a travelling festival. She has been involved in various exchange arts projects, forums/conferences, and research fellowships in Asia, Europe and the US. She is a recipient of the British Chevening Award, Asia Fellows Scholarship, Asian Cultural Council and most recently the US-ASEAN Fulbright Visiting Scholar Fellowship. Helly earned a Ph.D in dance studies from University of Roehampton and has just relocated to Yogyakarta where she is preparing to launch LINGKARAN | koreografi, a collaborative research platform focusing to expand the critical notions of choreography.


For registration, please click here. Registration closes on 16 December 2019.


Dec 18 2019


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2