Destinations in Indonesia
Jaipongan: The Popular Sundanese Folk Dance of West Java
If there ever was a folk dance that is so popular, is widely developed and deeply rooted in the Sundanese culture of West Java, then it must be Jaipongan. Jaipongan is undoubtedly one of the most popular folk dances in Indonesia; one that is frequently performed on various occasions, celebrations, welcoming distinguished guests, and even highlighting some formal events.
Although invented relatively recent compared to other traditional dances in Indonesia such as the Saman Dance of Aceh, Tari Piring (Saucer Dance) of West Sumatra, or Gandrung Dance of Banyuwangi in East Java, Jaipongan truly reflects the vibrant culture of the Sunda people. If the other traditional dances date back to hundreds of years ago Jaipongan has barely reached its 40 years.
The dance was invented when Soekarno, Indonesia's first President in 1961 challenged Indonesian musicians and artists to revive local art. The challenge was answered by Gugum Gumbira, composer, orchestra leader, and choreographer from Bandung, West Java who conducted an in-depth research for 12 years to revive Sunda art and culture in the form of folk dances. For his research, Gugum visited many rural and local dance music festivals throughout the northern coasts of West Java in search of inspiration.
Jaipongan (or Jaipong Dance) was first introduced in 1974 when Gugum Gumbira along with his Gamelan Orchestra and Dancers performed the dance for the first time to the public. The dance is based on the Sundanese Ketuk Tilu dance and music, combined with choreography from the traditional martial art of Pencak Silat and various other folk dances such as the Tari Topeng Banjet (Banjet Mask Dance).
Featuring Sundanese traditional costumes, traditional music instruments and traditional music, over time the dance has grown into an inseparable part of Sundanese traditional art, which is commonly performed during circumcision festivities, wedding ceremonies, and other folk fests.
Various dance schools offer Jaipongan class for teenagers interested in learning the dance.
The dance's distinctive feature is its cheerfulness, spontaneity, liveliness, and simplicity. The dance still follows the patterns of Ketuk Tilu , which features distinct choreography such as the bukaan (opening), pencugan, nibakeun (to drop), minced, and others. The choreography for the male jaipongan dancer is less acrobatic and martial compared to that found in Ketuk Tilu, whereas the female dancer it is very active with sexy movements of her hands, legs, hips, as also cheerful facial expressions.
Accompanying the dance, the musical ensemble of Jaipongan consists of a variety of Sundanese traditional instruments such as the core three main kettle gongs, a rebab (a small upright bowed instrument, also known as a spike fiddle), other small gongs — a hanging gong , two iron plates, saron, kempul, and two or three traditional kendang (barrel drums) percussions. The musical accompaniment is completed with a female singer known as sinden who sometimes also acts as dancer. All musicians, and especially the drummer, freely supplement the texture with rhythmic cries and yells called senggak.
Jaipongan drumming is more virtuosic and flamboyant, the drummer performs lively improvisations throughout, building up tension that culminates and is released at the gong stroke. A distinctive Sundanese feature is the variation of the pitch of the main drum, whose tension is governed by the foot of the drummer.
A jaipongan piece opens with a few gong cycles, often in a different tempo than the rest of the piece, during which the spike fiddle player improvises over the idiophone and drum accompaniment. The vocalist then enters, usually singing four gong cycles consecutively, then allowing the spike fiddler to improvise for two of theses gong strikes. The piece alternates in this way until it ends with a deceleration leading to the final gong.
The popularity of Jaipongan has also transcended West Java and Indonesia, as it was also introduced internationally by Gugum Gumbira and his dance group, Jugala. Throughout the 1980’s, the Jaipongan Dance gained some popularity in Asia, Europe, and North America.