Sixteen performance artists, eight from Asia and eight from the United States, spend six weeks in Indonesia.
The Asia Pacific Performance Exchange (APPEX), an international musicians and artists residency program, successfully completed its six-week Summer 2004 session in Bali, Indonesia, from mid-July to late August. The sixteen participants in APPEX 2004, eight from various countries of Asia and eight from the United States, stayed in the town of Ubud in central Bali, and in addition to workshop activities, learned about the rich culture of Bali. Artists visited sacred sites, witnessed ceremonies, and attended numerous local performances. Organized by Professor Judy Mitoma of the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures and sponsored by the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance, APPEX 2004 was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of State. Photos of the workshop are available on line at http://www.pelourinho.com/bali/2004/.
APPEX promotes cross-cultural and interdisciplinary understanding; develops rigorous strategies for art-making reflecting the nuances of cultural differences; and fosters new ways to experiment, collaborate, and interpret artistic expression. Since its inception in 1995, APPEX has brought together more than 100 traditional and contemporary musicians and performing artists from throughout Asia -- from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam -- and the United States.
For five days a week, artists and writers engaged in all-day workshops and explored ideas for collaborative projects in classrooms and studios. Activities were structured as a series of interconnected components to progress over the course of the residency.
Oral and video presentations. During the first week, all fellows introduced themselves to one another by describing and demonstrating their own work and explaining the dynamics of cultural and professional circumstances.
Master classes. In week 2 and 3, each fellow taught an hour-long workshop to the group. These workshops could be a class or lecture-demonstration, showing a technical aspect of their art form or a more open-ended approach to creation. The content of these sessions ranged from meditation practices to dance movement with modern as well as traditional origins, vocal exercises, music lessons and improvisation, and techniques in theater.
Group projects and improvisations. Large blocks of time in the studios were devoted to creative experimentation and exploration. Fellows discussed and voted for ideas to be developed into collaborative projects. Subsequently, smaller groups were formed to work on studies, for which they devised, developed, and staged performance projects.
Showcase performances were organized to present new and traditional work by APPEX artists at the mid-point of the residency.
Reflections and Reviews
All participants submitted informal writings in the form of letters or journals before, during, and after the residency. These writings recorded the expectations, reaction, and assessment of the program on an on-going basis and were shared among fellows.
Periodical debriefing sessions and weekly wrap-up sessions allowed for a more informal sharing of cultural and personal backgrounds as well as to discuss artistic issues and concerns that emerged during lab hours or in the creation of group projects.
Artists and writers were introduced to the vibrant arts and cultural scene through a variety of specially planned field trips.
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The selection criteria for APPEX Fellows were stringent:
- excellence in traditional and/or creative work in the areas of dance, music, theatre, puppetry, and related fields;
- proven interest in intercultural issues, as evidenced by creative projects or research;
- history of collaborative production and demonstrated artistic productivity;
- experience and/or interest in international travel;
- early to mid-career artists;
- communication skills in written and spoken English.
Eight of the sixteen fellows had previous Southeast Asia connections. Two were Americans and the other six were from the region:
Sathya Burchman, Los Angeles, CA, USA. A creative and gifted composer and musician, Burchman has spent the past thirteen years studying performance traditions of Ghana, Java, Bali, and Cuba. He has given special attention to Javanese and Balinese genders (bronze xylophone), and the Javanese kendhang (drum). He has performed with several Javanese gamelan ensembles and a Balinese gender wayang quartet and has collaborated with renowned and diverse artists such as Nyoman Cerita, Sri Susilawati, Sumarsam, and I.M. Harjito. His compositions have premiered in Yogyakarta, Santa Cruz, Middletown, and Los Angeles. Burchman is completing course work for the Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at UCLA and holds an MA in World Music from Wesleyan University.
Slamet Gundono, Surakarta, Java, Indonesia. One of the finest and most innovative puppeteers of his generation. He was born in Tegal, Central Java, to a family of dhalang artists (puppet shadow masters). Gundono trained in theatre at the Jakarta Institute of Arts and is completing his formal education in Pedalangan (art of puppet shadow) at the Indonesia College of Arts (STSI), Surakarta. Gundono's focus is on contemporary and experimental forms of wayang performance. He also works as a theatre and dance performer and has taken part in several productions such as Opera Diponegoro, a dance-theatre choreographed by Sardono W. Kusumo performed in Jakarta in 1995 and in Solo and Semarang in 2001, and Passage Through the Gong by Sardono, performed in Surakarta and Japan.
A. Aris A. Kadir, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A. Aris A. Kadir is one of the most influential and inventive artists to emerge from Malaysia. Classically trained in traditional Malay dance, he is also a contemporary dancer, teacher, and choreographer. Bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary aesthetics, Kadir's work incorporates the creative expanse of Malay theatre, ballet, Silat, Tai Chi, and jazz. A graduate of the Akademi Seni Kebangsaan (ASK), he has performed in numerous local and international festivals.
Mario Leofer M. Lim, Davao, Philippines. A gifted actor, musician, craftsman, educator, and costume designer. Lim has been a member of the Kaliwat Theater Collective Inc. since 1993. He has been developing community-based grassroots theatre workshop programs. Lately, he has been working on programs for children: victims of war, street children, and children affected by child labor. Lim believes that as a trainer and facilitator he is able to help these children gain self-esteem and empowerment, while teaching them about the richness of their culture. Lim has also collaborated in research work to help indigenous communities claim back their ancestral domains. Working with indigenous materials and found objects, Lim designs props, and makes beads, handcrafts, and musical instruments. He also facilitates productions, workshops, and performances in different communities in Mindanao.
Alden Lugnasin, Manila, Philippines. A a highly respected young ballet dancer and choreographer, Lugnasin started his dance training at the age of 18 with the Leyte State College Dance Repertoire under the artistic direction of Jess de Paz. He was an assistant to the artistic director for Realizing Rama, an ASEAN flagship project in 2001-02 for its European and ASEAN tour. His choreographic works include Impasse (1993), Swimming the Ilog Pasig (1997), Swans . . . Fluttering Disturbances (1998), Insomnis (1999), Tuol Sleng- S-21 Prison (2001), Jewelmer's Pearl of the Orient Show in Hong Kong (2002), and Buhay (2002), which had its world premiere at ASEAN'S Culture Week in Cambodia. Currently, he is the associate artistic director of Ballet Philippines. He is also the vice-chairman of the Banigan Kawayan Festival in his hometown province of Basey, Western Samar.
Rini Endah Sulistyowati, Solo, Java, Indonesia. A classically trained traditional Javanese dancer and one of the few women choreographers in Indonesia. A graduate of STSI Surakarta (Indonesia College of Arts, Dept. of Dance), she is an educator and has collaborated with several dancers and musicians to create works that offer a challenging, original, and provocative perspective on women and violence. She is founder of NN dance studio, where she actively engages in creative work concerning gender, culture, and development of children. Her interest in working with children has allowed her opportunity to perform at the POTRET with artists from Korea, Indonesia, and the U.S Women Choreographer Meeting II. In 2000, she developed choreography for 1200 children of the World Children Choir. She has found ways to take traditional Javanese forms and combine them with expressive body gestures to create innovative pieces that embody what she calls her "dance spirit."
Gretchen Van Lente, Brooklyn, NY, USA. The artistic director of Drama of Works in Brooklyn, Van Lente has been performing, building, and directing in the field of puppetry for six years. She has adapted and directed works ranging from guerilla Shakespeare to political puppet satire. Van Lente is also a dedicated educator and has taught many children's workshops. She is an award-winning illustrator, an experienced swing dancer, and an animal activist (currently fundraising for Tanjung Puting National Park orangutan reserve in Borneo, as well as volunteering locally at the Prospect Park Wildlife Center in Brooklyn). Van Lente received her BFA in illustration from Parsons School of Design and a BA in theatre from Eugene Lang College (both part of New School University).
Shamsul Bin Zin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is considered one of the most exciting musicians in Malaysia today. He acquired his early education in the field of music from his father and went on to study at the Akademi Seni Kebangsaan (National Arts Academy) in Kuala Lumpur. He is a virtuoso of traditional instruments such as the Malay Gamelan, Tabla, accordian, and harmonium as well as several modern instruments: Latin percussion, marimba, vibraphone, timpani, and keyboard. Zin is a composer and arranger for the National Theatre Festival and the musical director of the Bangsawan Alang Buana orchestra in Kuala Lumpur. He also arranges music for dance and Wayang Kulit (shadow puppetry). He has taken part in international music festivals in Australia, Brunei, Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, Turkey, and Vietnam. Zin participated in the Hyogo Asia Pacific Performing Arts Workshop in Kobe, Japan, and is currently doing collaborative work with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.
The other participants were Abhijit Banerjee, a well-known percussionist from Calcutta, India; Charlie Campagna, music director of the Los Angeles-based TRIP Dance Theater; Monica Favand, a modern dancer and executive/artistic director of the TRIP Dance Theater in Los Angeles; Vivian Fung, composer and faculty member at the Juilliard School in New York City; Paul Livingstone, sitar and guitar artist who has studied under Ravi Shankar; Yin Mei, former principal dancer with the Hong Kong Dance Company who now heads her own Yin Mei Dance Company in New York; Anupa Roy of New Delhi, India, a major force in the Indian Puppet Theatre; and Leese Walker, artistic/producing director of the Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble of New York City.
APPEX will hold its next workshop in Summer 2006 at UCLA. For more information, see the website of the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance http://www.wac.ucla.edu/cip/appex/index.htm.