I'm sitting right inside the open French doors of our little cottage house, or home stay as they call them here. We're at a cute little out of the way place called Rumah Kaka with lovely hosts, tabacco, corn, and sugar fields, birds singing, roosters crowing, and gekos sharing our space.
We performed Saturday night - the second of three full evening concerts. Yesterday, Sunday, the company and an attentive group of photographers and festival volunteers took us to the Barbardor Temple - the temple that inspired Kun-Yang's work, company development, and the Mandala Project. We entered at ground level. Mr. Pinto, a photographer for National Geographic, Reiki practicioner, yoga instructor, guitar player, and geologist told us that the bottom levels were covered in dirt and grass by the government. The Temple is one of the wonders of the world. Carved into the many lavers of stone is a book of stories. I could have spent days looking at the intricacies of the carvings. The details of the people, the leaves, the objects they used were all clear, even after thousands of years. The story tells of the life cycle and, according to Pinto, the first few levels tell of the creation process (sex). The government considered it pornographic, so they covered it with dirt and grass. Apparently, only a few people have seen those images and they were present during the original restoration and excavation. So, I climbed many, many, many steps. The sign outside of the entrance provides a brief description on how to approach the Temple. You enter on the east side and circle around three times at the first level before moving onto the second. Each level begins at the east side, but there are stairs in each of the four directions (so, we just trusted what they said was east). The company entered into the Temple and experienced it in different rhythms, but we were always closely watched by our wonderful guides - our entourage of festival workers and photographers, now our new friends. There were moments in my personal journey when I felt my energy drop from a nervousness high in my chest to something lower and not nervousness. Moments when I thought I would burst into tears, moments of extreme calmness, moments of total awe.
As I reached the top, Kun-Yang asked the company to walk the final circle together. In silence, we traversed. Each step concentrated and deliberate. Focused. Aware. Complete.
For me, it was impossible not to be totally aware of the height at the top of the Temple, the mountains and towns surrounding, the glow of the sun, the murmur of hundreds of visitors. Part of my practice with Kun-Yang is cultivating awareness and this was a moment of clarity and understanding. Those who built the Temple understood that the journey to the top was as important as the being at the top; that it took several hours of walking and climbing and reflecting to let things fall away, internally. Externally, they provided a visual example within the Temple - the top of the Temple was filled with strategically placed bells with Buddhas sitting inside. The walls at the top held no reliefs, as if they had been let go and the stone was allowed to exist in its own, natural form.
Later yesterday evening, a master mask maker came to visit us. He's preparing for an international tour, but made some time to journey to Rumah Kaka to talk with us. To just spend an evening with us. He shared that Javanese dance is made up of four elements. Abstract movement, gestural movement, speaking and opera. I never would have thought about dance as singing and speaking, but in this context, where everything is connected, it makes sense. He said that the act of performing and working with masks and dance is about listening: listening to the mask, listening to the space, listening to what is around you. Maybe not with your ears, necessarily. Dance is a form of communication and as dancers, we usually do most of the "speaking". It is important for any conversation, any relationship to have an amount of listening. In dance, listening to the time and the space.
Seated cross legged on the couch in our cottage, he demonstrated abstract movement, gestural movement, speaking, and opera for different characters. In moments, he transformed into a prince, a king, a servant, and back into a friend, just spending an evening with us.
I was deeply moved by his willingness to talk with us about his process and his artistic journey. He's invited us to visit his studio on Tuesday.
This reflection will continue... but for now, I have to close. We're headed to the field to rehearse and begin a new journey.
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