On Friday, August 9, 2013, Bali lost one of its most treasured performers with the death of I Nyoman Sura, a man considered a star of contemporary dance not only in Indonesia, but internationally as well.
Sura, aged 37, died in a Denpasar hospital after being hospitalized for a number of days. MetroTV reported the cause of death as pancreatic cancer
I Nyoman Sura was born in the Denpasar suburb of Kesiman on April 10, 1976, into a family supported by farming and traditional weaving.
When not busy helping his father in the fields, Nyoman attended a local school where his attention was drawn to traditional dance programs.
Growing up in Bali, he was encouraged to dance at temple festivals and participate in the preparation of religious offerings.
Nyoman Sura’s significant contribution to the world of dance would have perhaps never materialized had he not failed the entrance exam for a course in accountancy at Bali’s Udayana University.
Failed as an aspiring accounttant, Sura fell back on his childhood love of traditional dance, drawn to enroll in the Indonesian Institute of Fine Arts (ISI), located just a short distance from his home. A naturally gifted student of dance, he immersed himself in both contemporary and traditional forms, absorbing both the theory and practice of dance that laid the groundwork for his eventual emergence as one of Indonesia’s most gifted choreographers.
By 1995 Nyoman began acquiring awards including the designation as “Best Choreographer” in a Java-Bali Dance Competition.
Graduating from ISI in 1996, the brilliant young dance-choreographer was kept on by his alma mater where he taught both dance and movement.
Eager to always learn more, in 2009 Nyoman Sura joined a Masters Program (S-2) in dance to ISI Surakarta, Central Java, shuttling back and forth between the two campuses, while also fulfilling a busy schedule of dance performance both at home and abroad.
As a choreographer, Nyoman Sura’s attention focused on contemporary dance, explaining that it was only through contemporary forms of dance that he could give full expression without restraint to his ideas and inspirations.
He credited his inspiration in contemporary dance to a ISI former teacher I Wayan Dibia, Indonesian contemporary dance prodigy Boi G. Sakti and Taiwanese choreographer Lin Hwai-min.
But Sura’s main source of fundamental inspiration remained the traditional dance of Bali. His contemporary dance program, highly acclaimed and performed on dance stages around the world, drew upon traditional elements in movement, music and costume from his Island home. This is aptly demonstrated in his works: Sri Tanjung (2009) and Ritus Legong (2002).
Dancing in the Nude
Contemporaneous in both movement and themes, Nyoman Sura as a leader in his field always danced on that narrow precipice navigated by anyone breaking new artistic ground. Ritus Legong (2004) tried to raise awareness of the ongoing threat to the environment by using costumes made from recycled trash and refuse. Perhaps anticipating, or some would say precipitating, the coming national debate on art and pornography, That Time (Waktu Itu) (2002) caused a national stir when he premiered the piece in Medan, North Sumatra, by dancing the scene depicting man’s return to infinity in the nude.
True to his principles as an artist, Sura calmly explained to those scandalized by his performance, that Waktu Itu portrayed man's transitions from birth to life to death. “Being naked reflects the state of man at the end of life when he must face God free of all earthly accessories,” he explained.
Other dance compositions Bulan Mati (Dead Moon) (2003) contrasted the close juxtaposition of happiness and sadness in daily life; The Lost (2010) told how power and wealth are but fleeting illusions in the course of human existence; Seribu Wajah (A Thousand Faces) (2001) criticized human greed and Dua-1 (2002) examines how to blend opposing elements.
Sura’s work revolved on movement and choreography. Technical skill on the part of the dancer ensured perfection in execution, while choreography enhances the appeal and quality of dance, especially when a troupe of dancers occupy the stage at the same time.
I Nyoman Sura will be sorely missed on the world's and Bali’s contemporary dance scene as both a teacher and a performer. There is no one approaching his competence or level of dance craft anywhere on the immediate horizon on the current Bali dance scene.
For now, that stage stands empty.
Meanwhile, Nyoman stands on another stage, naked before a loving God.
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