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Stiff Chicken and Double Cross-Gender

Updated: Apr 28

I had my first class of Javanese Dance this morning. Mas Hardi, my teacher, barely spoke English, which made things a bit difficult since I haven’t gone very far with my Indonesian. I don’t really recall the last time I was expect to follow such strict shapes and counts in a dance class. I must have looked like a stiff chicken. I just hope I’ll eventually rise to the level of an ugly duckling. My teacher didn’t sound very confident when he asked me after class how long I’d be in Indonesia for. But I’m determined to become at least the ugly duckling. Anyway, this shaping of the body into a totally different way of moving and behaving must turn out to be handy when managing gender changes for the Transanima Project. Besides, I have the support of the culture where this dance belongs. So, let me leave this computer aside for a while and force my mind to memorize how to count from 1 to 8 in Indonesian. I won’t be trying to recall how I’m supposed to move my hands though. I’ll leave that for tomorrow’s class.


Also, I got the chance to watch Mr. Didik teaching one of the other students who are in internship under his guidance. She chose to learn a piece from the repertoire of Mr. Didik, a traditional male Mask Dance from Central Java. Although Mr. Didik is mainly known for his cross-gender work, he has come to master dances traditionally designed for male performers. Nonetheless, this particular style of dance has, and still has, its share in the history of Indonesian traditional cross-gender dance with female performers in the role of these male characters. Seeing Mr. Didik executing it beside his student gives one the feeling of a double cross-gender, as Mr. Didik himself points it out. It immediately reminded me of the works from the “Warhol Project” (1999-2001) by Deborah Kass, which was chosen to advertise the exhibition “Just Different” recently on view at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen. In this particular work, Kaas depicts herself posing and dressed as Andy Warhol in one of his well-known self-portraits in which he appears in a wig. A woman dressed as a man dressed as a woman.

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