Dancing and Moving

Dangdut and dancing – both the singer and audience’s dance moves – are two sides of the same story. It is even mentioned in the song “Goyang Inul” that “without dancing, dangdut is like peas without carrots”. In an interview with Andrew Weintraub dangdut singer Camelia Malik went on to share her opinion about dangdut and dancing. She stated, “I see dangdut as something unique but the listener immediately drawn into it – they move in an instant. And it’s automatically done. When the music starts people will certainly start dancing, no force needed. With other music, even classical music or jazz, or whatever, or a good quality pop; people still need to be persuaded to dance. But that’s not the case with dangdut. (Camelia Malik, 2005 in Weintraub, 2012: 22)

There are a number of literatures that can begin to explain the understanding of dancing in dangdut. First is the context of dancing from the audience’s point of view. Weintraub outlines the matters as such: “The meaning of ‘dancing’ is merely ‘to move’. But in dandgut dancing refers to the movement of the hips, waist, and buttocks. ‘Shaking’ is not only a gesture but a ‘natural’ and ‘subconscious’ reaction to the typical beat of dangdut drum.” (2012: 23)

He also cited a newspaper article, in which it was stated that in dangdut dancing there were no rules in the movement of the feet and hand, or how to positioned the body. While the ‘subconscious movement Weintraub was referring to were a reference to the lyrics of a Rhoma Irama song, “Dangdut”: “Because I was having so much fun, I didn’t realize my hips were moving, I feel like singing”.

Weintraub’s argument on the existence of subconscious movement was also found in Phillip Yampolsky’s opinion (1991: 1 in Wallach, 2017: 195), highlighting the audience of dangdut: “Indeed, the dancing seemed to be intended to take them to a state of a complete disregad; free from self-awareness and restraints.” Yampolsky assessment of the audience’s unconsciousness aligned with what Camelia Malik’s viewpoint in saying that dancing in dangdut is automatically done. The urge in dangdut’s audiences to dance together while not knowing each other becomes the basis of Sakawel’s view in thinking that the music was capable to embrace a diverse range of people as opposed to being created exclusively for the middle to lower class as it was often believed with dangdut.

The context of dancing in dangdut shifted to the singer’s point of view when Wallach used the word to describe movement of a female singer on the stage. As per Wallach’s description, a female singer’s dancing involves a slow, twisting and curved movements, centered on the hips, which can help the singer to either move up and down or remain stationary. Furthermore, he argued, a female singer’s movement holds an important role in creating sensuality during their live shows – something that is not at any time highlighted during the performance of male dangdut singers.

Cucu Cahyati further defined dancing for singers in a 1996 interview with D&R Magazine (in Weintraub, 2012). She suggested that when a singer dances there should be a certain set of rules to be followed, so that people can identify her distinctive movements. Additionally, the singer, who once won a Jaipong competition when in elementary school, said a singer’s dancing should not be intended to entice the audience and should not be erratic.

Regarding the rules and intentions of dancing, Cameila Malik agreed with Cucu Cahyati. The singer, who since the late 1970s incorporated modern Jaipong elements to her routine, said, “… In Jaipong, it has guidelines, a standard, a contortion of the shoulders and hips, so it’s not possible for me to do it to show off its sensuality. Jaipong is not merely random movements, it’s a learned type of dancing” (2005 in Weintraub, 2012: 136).

The movement of female dangdut singers that involved dancing techniques was also evident in Inul Daratista’s performances. Her dance move, which involved a rapid movement of the hips, causing the lower body to gyrate like a drill, was a common routine in Tayuban – a popular type of dance in Eastern and Central Java involving seductive movements from its female dancers. The description of movements used in Tayuban could easily be applied to Inul Daratista’s routines: body in an upright position, arms swaying and feet stomping.

Aside from Camelia Malik and Inul Daratista, Dewi Perssik was another singer who integrated some particular techniques when dancing on stage. In 2016, in an article published on Tabloid Bintang, the dangdut singer was said to have caught the attention of Fabio Dita, a professional dancer who had been dancing for Shakira and Marc Anthony in their live shows. It was Dewi Perssik’s vocal performance and stage act that captured Fabio Dita’s attention. Below is an excerpt of the article…

“Fabio Dita collaborated with Dewi Perssik to perform Saldut (Salsa Dangdut), which was written by Fabio Dita and his partner, Alex Perez. The lyric is a mix of Indonesian, English and Latin… ‘At a glance, her look is like Shakira,’ said Fabio Dita, when talking to reporters in Jakarta recently. ‘Dewi Perssik has many talents. She sings and dances well. And most importantly she has attitude,’ Fabio Dita added. The music video for the song has been completed. The video’s concept is dance, combining salsa, belly dance and, of course, dangdut moves…” (Kurniawan, 2016)

In respect of the distinctiveness of female dangdut singers, there a number of dance moves that are associated to certain singers. Inul Dartista introduced audiences to goyang ngebor (drill-like movement of the hips and buttocks), Dewi Perssik is known for her goyang gergaji (dance routine with hand movement imitating that of a seesaw), Annisa Bahar is the creator of goyang patah-patah (dance moves with broken sways of the hip), while Uut Permatasari rose to fame with her goyang ngecor (raising one leg up while rocking the hips and buttocks). These dance moves were created as a way to build personal image for each aforementioned singers. Inul Daratista, for example, created a strong, assertive, sensuous image of a woman through her moves as well as the costume she wore.

Referring back to the discussion of freestyle movements and a number of dance techniques incorporated into female dangdut singers’ performances; the world of dangdut is ever so welcoming to these two things or the combination of. In addition to traditional dances, such as Jaipong, and salsa and belly dance as it was seen in Dewi Perssik and Fabio’s “Saldut” music video, there are various type of dangdut dances being presented in mass media and dangdut shows by local singers. This is in line with the analysis of the costumes worn by these singers.

Dancing in dangdut is diverse and sometime the movements are influenced by type of dances from countries around the world. Ellya Khadam’s dancing took inspiration from India, while the touch of hip-hop, R&B, rock, and freestyle dancing from the United States and Korea can be seen in the performance of several singers such as Siti Badriah (“Lagi Syantik”, “Aku Kudu Kuat”), Via Vallen (“Sayang” on Indonesian Choice Awards 5.0. NET.), Sandrina (“Goyang Dua Jari”) and Denada (“Kucing Garong”).
Kurniawan, Ari. (2016). Dewi Perssik Digaet Mantan Penari Latar Shakira dan Marc Anthony. Tabloidbintang.com. Diakses dari https://www.tabloidbintang.com/film-tv-musik/kabar/read/34088/dewi-perssik-digaet-mantan-penari-latar-shakira-dan-marc-anthony
Sekewael, Roose. (2016). Indonesian Popular Music and Identity Expression: Issues of Class, Islam, and Gender. MA Thesis. Leiden University.
Wallach, Jeremy. (2017). Musik Indonesia 1997-2001: Kebisingan dan Keberagaman Aliran Lagu (Tini, transl.). Depok: Komunitas Bambu.
Weintraub, Andrew N. (2012). Dangdut: Musik, Identitas, dan Budaya Indonesia (A.B. Prasetyo, transl.). Jakarta: KPG.