Dancers from Asia (2) – ​Ditta Miranda Jasjfi from Indonesia

Ditta suggested that we met at Café Engel. When I said that it was a quiet place, she suddenly remembered that it would not be my first time in Wuppertal.

After leaving my luggage in the hotel, I headed for the Laurentiusplatz. It took me a while to realize that the schwebebahn was out of service as the trains kept operating « normally » but without passengers. When I walked towards the bus station, I crossed Rainer Behr with a scooter. It must be an ordinary encounter for any Wuppertal citizen, but not for me. The weather was pleasant and finally I sat with Ditta at the terrace of Café Engel.

My first image of Ditta with Tanztheater was The Rite of Spring in the documentary Pina. It was also the first piece of Pina that she saw in Jakarta in 1979. She didn’t have much memory about that but how jealous I am of her having parents bringing her to « watch almost every dance company in Jakarta ». Ballet and Indonesian traditional dances (from Bali, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Jaipong) accompanied her childhood and have become part of her life ever since though pursuing dance as a career didn’t come naturally and she was majored in Japanese literature for three years. The turning point came when a friend went to study dance in America, and her ballet teacher’s son in Germany. Like her friend, studying dance in the States was her dream but financially speaking, Germany is an even more sensible destination. Regarding school selection, Folkwang became her first choice simply because that’s where her ballet teacher’s son studied.

Joining the Tanztheater company seems to be ideal for a lot of dance students in Essen. Ditta became one of them after having watched several Pina’s works. But it didn’t happen until 2000. Who would think that getting a role is an issue for Ditta after having seen her dance? During her period of Folkwang Hochschule, no young choreographers asked her to dance. She is different but may be the issue is the cliché image of dancers in Europe. Luckily Suzanne Linke is fond of Indonesian culture which is not completely irrelevant when she decided to bring her into her company.

Wuppertal is even an unknown destination for some Germans. A girl coming from a muslim family in Jakarta must need passion, courage and confidence working and living here. Freedom is her reason to be, both on stage and in daily life. Working with Pina also awakens her freedom on stage although she was deprived of part of her personal life. When dancers spend so much time together, they may don’t want to further develop friendship within them otherwise you are surrounded by the same people all the time. You can still have your small circle of friends. For Ditta, Héléna Pikon is a close friend.

Looking back Pina’s works, she loves Iphigenie auf Tauris before her arrival, Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen and Vollmond as world-premiere dancer. She has more personal time now as the way how the company works is much more standardized than before. For anyone, this is not a bad thing. She can spend more time with her friends, watching more performances, etc. 

Regarding the last creation with Dimitris Papaioannou, she was not quite used to his way of working when dancers in the other creation felt comfortable as Alan Lucien Øyen worked à la Baushienne. It seems that Dimitris has already had everything in mind and dancers just interpret his images. I find this perspective interesting as personally Papaioannou did a much better job than Alan in terms of capturing the essentials of Pina. Turkish dance critic Danzon best summarizes Since She in his review: « it is as if, by means of ‘seit sie’, Papaioannou creates ‘the missing Athens piece’ among the complete works of Pina Bausch with its bauschian qualities, subtle use of greek music, abstract sirtaki movements danced in unison by the company members, and with the acropolis at the back of the stage ». But Ditta appreciated the experience with Papaioannou more after creation than before. She is also interested in other choreographers/companies such as Batsheva, Akram Khan, Legend Lin Dance Theater. Will she do something outside of Tanztheater one day? Let’s see.

Question on integration seems unnecessary as she has been here for thirty years and enjoy it very much. She still goes back to Jakarta from time to time visiting family and friends as well as curing her homesick for Indonesian food. I said that I was luckier as there were many authentic Chinese restaurants in Paris.

On 3rd, October, I was back to Wuppertal. I saw two Dittas on stage: one in Pina’s last work, the other in Anne Linsel’s documentary (2006). No, actually it was the same Ditta, as innocent as a child of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Ditta’s favorite places in Wuppertal:
– Rex Theater
– Thalia Bookstore
– Utopiastadt

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