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United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

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The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

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US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

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Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Many Faces of an Indonesian Dance Master

The Jakarta Globe, Tasa Nugraza Barley

Didik has a comedic take on traditional dance. (Photo courtesy of Didik Nini Thowok)

I’ve never thought of stopping dancing. I think I’m going to dance until I die.”

So said Didik Nini Thowok, famous for his style of combining comedy with traditional and modern dance.

He’s also one of only a few Indonesian dancers who continue to work with the traditional cross-gender forms of dance, and his talent for impersonating female characters in his performances has drawn praise from traditional dance enthusiasts, both at home and from countries around the world — including the Netherlands, Britain, the United States, Brunei and Singapore — that he’s visited to promote the art form.

Born in the small town of Temanggung, near Yogyakarta in Central Java, on Nov. 13, 1954, his first dream was to become a painter. But even as a child his talent for dance was recognized — he was always judged the best dancer by his teachers at the traditional dance classes he took after school.

“I was always the best, even compared to female dancers,” he said.

Still, his hopes of becoming a painter didn’t die until it became impossible for him to pursue his study of art. “Going to an art school was too expensive for me,” Didik said, adding that his parents could not support him financially after his father’s business selling leather went bankrupt.

So when Didik finished school at 18 he began teaching children’s dance classes and working at Temanggung’s Department of Culture to help support his family. His role in the department was to promote and develop traditional dance.

Finally, he accepted that dancing was his calling, and once his passion for dance took hold nothing could stop his pursuit of mastering the art — not even the early objections of his grandfather, who still hoped he would become a painter and didn’t consider dance a good career choice.

After saving some money, at the age of 20 Didik left his hometown to pursue his formal education at the Akademi Seni Tari Indonesia Yogyakarta, a traditional dance academy. He received his diploma in 1977, then began teaching at the school while still studying for his Bachelor of Traditional Indonesian Dance, which he earned in 1982.

Didik said students at ASTI were required to learn Central Javanese, Balinese and Sundanese traditional dance. Didik is now considered an expert in these three styles.

Didik also studied under other teachers, including a maestro of Balinese dance, I Gusti Gde Raka. He has also traveled to Japan to learn the classical dance-theater style of kabuki , to Spain to learn flamenco and, in 1985, he went on a three-month study tour of Europe, sponsored by a former student from Belgium who had studied in Yogyakarta.

Beyond this, Didik takes inspiration for his art from everyday life. “I’m a traditional dancer who learns dancing from both formal and informal education. The whole universe, especially nature, is my informal education,” he said, adding that he has created dances inspired by stories people have told him about their lives.

Didik even got his name from dance. His real name is Didik Hadipriyatno, but in 1975 he played a character called Nini Thowok, and it stuck. Nini was an old, female witch in a dance choreographed by one of his friends. Since that dance performance, which was shown at a number of university campuses in Yogyakarta, he has been known as Didik Nini Thowok.

Through years of practice and performance, Didik has also created his own dance styles. One of his best-known dance creations is the tari dwimuka (two-face dance), in which Didik wears masks both on his face and on the back of his head, resulting in two different characters that are used to show opposing sides of human nature, such as good and evil.

Didik, however, is probably best known for his comedic dances. “It’s not easy to perform comedic dances, many professional dancers have tried and failed,” he said.

He began to create humorous dances because people teased him for performing female characters. Many male dancers are reluctant to dance female roles, afraid of questions it might raise about their sexuality, even though the cross-gender dance tradition has a long history in Indonesia, and can be found in Bali, Sulawesi, North Sumatra and elsewhere.

Injecting comedy into his performances was a way to get audiences to accept him, he said. Didik said he doesn’t spoil traditional dances by adding comedy, as some critics have claimed. He said he believes it enhances the dances.

“Many people don’t appreciate comedic dances, [and don’t] understand the real value of comedic dance,” he said.

Didik said he uses body movement and, sometimes, masks to create humor. He said it was hard to explain exactly how a dance could be humorous, but suggested that people could come to a performance to find out for themselves.

Anggi Minarni, director of the Karta Pustaka Indonesian-Dutch Cultural Center, described Didik as a “multitalented dancer and choreographer who has incredible talents.” He said few dancers in Indonesia were as talented as Didik.

Maria Darmaningsih, a traditional dancer, teacher and vice dean at the School of Performing Arts at the Jakarta Arts Institute, agreed that Didik was a special dancer with his dedication to learning new styles from both Indonesia and abroad. Maria noted how Didik once went to live in Cirebon, West Java, specifically to train under the top dancer there to improve his skills in Sundanese dance.

According to Maria, who has performed with Didik in the past, the traditional dances that Didik promotes play an important role in Indonesian culture.

Years ago, she said, traditional dances were performed during cultural events such as harvest and rain ceremonies.

“More than just that, each traditional dance possesses a value and a philosophy,” Maria said. “In all classical Javanese dances, dancers have to bow and greet the audience before performing. This shows that we should respect others and always be humble.”

She said most people today only learned the movements for a dance. “They don’t realize the dances hold the values and philosophies that actually define who we are.”

She said that through his comedic dances Didik was able to introduce people to traditional styles and ideas.

Despite the increasing influence of Western culture on young people, particularly in Jakarta, Didik remains optimistic about preserving Indonesia’s dance heritage.

“In a city like Jakarta, you perhaps don’t find young people who want to learn traditional dances, but if you go to cultural cities like Bandung and Yogyakarta, you’ll see that young people are still interested in learning these dances,” Didik said.

He added that to this end it was important for the government to increase support for traditional artists in the country. Many artists in Indonesian have a poor quality of life, he said, but they should be valued and rewarded because “it’s those real artists in small villages who enrich the culture of this country.”

He said one of his previous dance teachers had had to work as a hair stylist to subsidise his income, which gave him less time to teach others and pass his skills on to the next generation.

Anggi said it was important for Didik to find someone who could replace him when he eventually retired. “I think Didik needs to start thinking about training someone to inherit his skills,” he said.

But Anggi acknowledged it won’t be an easy task. “Today’s young people always want instant results; they want to work less and get as much money as possible,” he said.

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