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Dancing Own/Other's Faith: The Encounters of Religion and Dance in Contemporary Javanese Muslim Context


This research examines performative dances of Ramayana Prambanan, Golek Menak, and Sholawatan Emprak in which the scholarly thought concentrates on Muslim dancers. It is widely known that Ramayana has been a significant religious reference for the Hindus, particularly in India and Bali. However, in Indonesia, especially in Java that is predominantly Muslims, Ramayana is accepted and expressed in a dance drama as if it is a 'lived' experience. In contrast, Golek Menak, inspired from Islamic stories depicting the journey of the Prophet's uncle, illustrates a more Islamic accentuation within the frame of Javanese dance qualities, whilst Emprak displays musical recitation of Qur'anic verses added with bodily motions. To develop the scholarship, it was central to capture the significances of why the Muslim dancers performed Ramayana Hindu epic that they actually did not belong to the faith, but were situated in an Islamic context, and how they fitted in dancing Golek Menak and Emprak that highlighted Islam of their own faith. As they made use bodily practice and motion in dancing, it was also critical to call attention to how they understood their own bodies and employed their bodily experiences to transcend not necessarily within vertical line to God, but went beyond to arrive at spirituality. Also, the changing social context contributed to the dynamics of the performing Muslim dancers. The research utilized a multi-sited approach to the phenomenological study of these kinds of contemporary Javanese Muslim discourse from 2016 to 2018. Within the frame of qualitative strategy, participatory-practice method was undertaken to participate and perform in those three categories of dances to provide insights leading to contemporary configurations of Javanese Muslim society. In addition to that, in-depth interviews with 20 Muslim dancers were conducted to add the ethnographic data sources in order to employ the comparative scrutiny of the approach besides making valued audio visual documentation. Widodo -a Muslim- claims that he brings the Rahwana's stage character of Ramayana to his everyday life while Wisnu, a Muslim dancer with Hindu name, made his journey to Mecca for a pilgrimage insists on performing in public. Tio, a Muslim female dancer, is willing to take off her hijab when dancing. They are not bothered with whatever religious elements of Hinduism or Islam on the dances, but put extensive efforts in making high aesthetic accomplishment. On the contrary, dancers of Sholawatan Emprak represent a practice of praising the Muslim's God Allah SWT without being much distracted with aesthetic composition. Mbah Adi claims the dance is a form of veneration. Those dances have formed the individual's resilience to position the self when dealing with the Hindu faith, Islam, and the Javanese eminence, not to target based on the specific religion, but for spiritual facet, although the excitement of dancing the own faith has the potency to drive higher in comparison. The degree of piety towards Islam may not be the crucial matter to fulfill to its fullest in one point, but appreciating their bodies, in which the soul is also in it, as something that Allah has created, becomes the utmost importance that one is alive, and thus, it embraces the dimension of transcendence which is temporary in nature. At length, the identity as a Muslim remains secondary to complement the representation of the dances.

Key Words: religion, dance, Javanese Muslim, Ramayana Prambanan, Golek Menak, Sholawatan Emprak