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Holy Cross to Host Tari Aceh! Music and Dance from Northern Sumatra

February 18th, 2015 by 
Tari Aceh Dancers

Arts Transcending Borders (ATB) at the College of the Holy Cross will present “Tari Aceh!” (“Dance Aceh!”), a performance of music and dance from Northern Sumatra. The Massachusetts premiere event will be held on Sunday, Feb. 22, at 3 p.m. in Brooks Concert Hall at the College and is free and open to the public.

Nine female performers from Aceh, Indonesia will perform dances, inherited from their ancestors. The dances are stunning in their synchronicity and will include rhythmic body percussion, and the singing of both Islamic liturgical and folk texts, accompanied by percussion. The dances that will be performed are some of the best illustrations of the trans-cultural blending of Islamic and Indonesian culture. Originally performed by men, the dances were taught to women in the 20th century and in some districts, forbidden . The dancers are between the ages of 14 and 24, and are affiliated with Syiah Kuala University, located in Banda Aceh, the capital of the northern Aceh province on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra. This will be the troupe’s first-ever tour of the U.S.

Prior to the event there will be a panel discussion that will explore performing arts as a space for expressing Indonesia-Islam encounters. In response to many recent controversies, the value and meaning of these encounters, such as the birth of new laws and their effect on cultural policy, has created a renewed focus on discourses of representation and identity. In this regard, performing arts in Aceh have become resilient and thriving markers of local and national existence. The panel will discuss these issues through the lenses of history, socio-political contexts, and performing arts as representation of a conscious reconstruction of identity.

The panelists will include: Eka Srimulyani, lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Islamic State University of Ar-Raniry, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and senior researcher at the International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies; Ari Palawi, program development coordinator at the Center for the Arts at Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and a Ph.D candidate at Monash University, Australia; and Maho Ishiguro, a Ph.D candidate in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University. The discussion will be moderated by Lynn Kremer, professor of theatre and director of ATB.

The panel discussion and performance are part of a four-day residency for the dancers that will immerse the performers into college life through a series of workshops, class visits and other activities.

Arts Transcending Borders is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The panel discussion and performance is supported by the Asian Studies Program at Holy Cross. The United States tour of Tari Aceh! is organized by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts, The Asia Society, and the Center for the Arts of Syiah Kuala University on the occasion of “Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.” Other performances on the tour include Wesleyan University, Asia Society, Wellesley College.

The tour has been made possible with leadership support from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters: Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Supported by a grant from the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state arts agencies. Additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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