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Beyond the Margins

Updated: Apr 28

And here comes Mr. Didik to save me from becoming a social environment artist activist. Not that the two performances that he showed tonight at Hotel Jakarta lacked a social awareness. On the other hand, I can name a few social issues evident in his work: beauty, cultural differences, gender, age, sexual taboos. Besides, considering the sort of audience he faced this time, such topics can only and should be at stake but are usually skipped over.


Mr. Didik performed at one of the most bourgeois hotels in town to a crowd of religious people who happened to be here for a conference and, of course, a bit of tourism. During my internship with Mr. Didik, I’ve seen him performing in front of various crowds. He has shared his work with the usual artistic and intellectual words, at a street demonstration against a discriminatory project of law, at the opening of a new artistic community space in Jakarta, at an open stage during a student graduation show of a local university. Apart from that, during my stay here, Mr. Didik was away in Mexico as an Indonesian cultural ambassador and performed to a full gamelan orchestra the strict Javanese Classical Dance style of which he’s a master. Also, he’ll soon be leaving to a month tour abroad. This time, he’s scheduled in theaters in New York, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. I was lucky he was busy with his newest creation when I got here because Mr. Didik does indeed spend most of the year traveling.


Armed with a wide repertoire and a rare stage experience, Mr. Didik is able to truly communicate to the various audiences to whom he presents his work. I’ve come to know Mr. Didik as a man of very strong and clear opinions. But, he’s above all a believer in the human potential and express that in the immense respect and patience he has for any kind of audience. In fact, I’ve come to realize that the main reason why his audience feels compelled to the issues he addresses in his work is that he never intends to provoke. There would be no possibility for true dialogue otherwise. The way he deals with the subject matter in his work reveals what is already there and what sometimes we might not want to see.


It was very interesting to witness some of the public doubt Mr. Didik’s ‘sex’. They seemed to have a hard time in accepting that the person dancing on stage was not a ‘real woman’. But, when the hostess of the evening reveals the ‘truth’ during the break, they aren’t in shock, they’re rather full of admiration. And their laughter seems to be, rather than a mocking, a release from some tension – of a groundless prejudice maybe? After the show, Mr. Didik, this very delicate and shy man, still fully cross-dressed, is given the microphone and speaks to the audience about his passion of dance and theater, his journey as an artist and his accurate and contemporary research on cross-gender traditions. How wonderful it is to be reminded that Art can remove boundaries.

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