Firda Wijaya teaches and performs Indonesian folk dance in Vancouver. The Dance Current published a profile on Wijaya in our January/February 2019 issue. Here is the full conversation.
The Dance Current Can you talk about your dance trajectory? When did you first figure out you loved dance? Where did you train and study and in what forms?
Firda Wijaya My main interest is in folk Indonesian dance. To give a bit of background, Indonesia has many different ethnic groups living throughout the island, each with different cultures. This diversity is one of the reasons that I always had a passion for Indonesian folk dance.
The most interesting part for me is that across the nation, each of the dances has its own character and personality. I’ll never get enough of learning about these cultures. Starting from the island of Sumatra, the dance has stronger and more dynamic movements; when we go over to the island of Java, the dance becomes graceful and passionate; moving along the island of Kalimantan, we can feel the Indigenous Dayak tribes in the movement; jumping over to the island of Bali, whenever I dance this movement, I feel the sense of Hindu influences. There are many others that I didn’t mention with their own uniqueness. Moreover, at the age of four, my mom started to introduce me to some Sumatran and Javanese dances in school. It was when I was twelve that my mom first introduced me to Balinese dance.
Back in Indonesia, I had studied Balinese dance with some of the greatest artists — Ni Ketut Widiastini, Ni Nengah Suartiasih, LKB Saraswati. Moreover, I also had intensive training to develop my dance personality and character, and this is when I was introduced to various Indonesian folk dances. Eventually, I entered the professional dance world when I joined Kinarya GSP.
Finally, I have been always passionate about learning new genres of dance! Because of this curiosity, I have tried tango, cha-cha, salsa, tap dance, contemporary and kathak dance. Although my main focus is still in Indonesian traditional dance, I think every dance genre has its own uniqueness, character and personality.
TDC Congratulations on winning the 2016 Vancouver World Dance Competition! What did you do to prepare and how did it feel to be recognized for your work?
FW Thank you! Yes, it always feels amazing whenever other people, and especially other nations, appreciate Indonesian culture.
In the Vancouver World Dance Competition, I presented Cendrawasih, a dance from Bali in which the dancer has the personality of a beautiful peacock flying around in paradise. The experience was similar to when I performed in a worldwide dance contest in Cheonan Dance Festival in Korea; I prepared myself for an intensive three months to embody the “taksu” of the dance. Taksu refers to the charisma, and artistic and spiritual power that you give through your performance to the audience.
TDC What is your approach to Balinese dance? Why is it important to you to practise in the form and where do you see the form going in the future?
As I mentioned before, Balinese dance is about having the taksu whenever you are dancing. This taksu is really important for every dancer. A great Balinese dancer who’s got taksu will have the ability to capture the minds and hearts of the audience. Even a simple movement with taksu and the gamelan music will have its own charisma and attractiveness. Taksu is something that you gain because of your hard work, and that is why I need intensive practice to prepare. In the future, I see a wider audience for Balinese dance, especially with its dynamic, rhythmic and expressive movement.
TDC What do you do in your life outside of dance and how do you maintain a balance between dance and other activities and work?
FW Currently, I am still a fourth-year student in Simon Fraser University, majoring in mechatronic systems engineering. I usually practise every weekend, once or twice, depending on the schedule. Moreover, I also like to keep up with many new exciting Indonesian folk dances every year. Besides the dance, I also love to listen to Indonesian folk music as it gives me more ideas and develops my creativity.
TDC Do you have any advice for young dancers?
FW Being a dancer is not easy work. It requires hard work, passion and most importantly, a great character. My advice would be to keep practising, find the soul of your dance and also to open up to the wide variety of dances in the world. For me, there’s lots of excitement in the dances of each and every corner of the world!
TDC What’s next and upcoming for you?
FW I’m currently working on my Indonesian folk dance group based in Vancouver, called Srikandi Indonesia. In this group, I will be teaching and also choreographing many different types of Indonesian folk dances — Sumatran, Javanese, Balinese and many others dances. Srikandi Indonesia focuses on lead talent and teaching others how to become professional Indonesian folk dancers. I hope that Srikandi Indonesia will be the platform for people to introduce, better understand and promote the diversity of Indonesian culture in Canada.