BWW Review: OZASIA FESTIVAL 2016: SOFTMACHINE: RIANTO Explores The Fine Line Between Man And Woman

Reviewed by Matthew John Plummer, Saturday 24th September 2016

The SoftMachine is a series of works, directed and inspired by Choy Ka Fai, that investigate the contemporary status of dance through a research across Asia. Rianto is a dancer from Banyumas, Indonesia, a specialist in the erotic dance of Lengger, and also traditional Javanese dance forms, whilst also being a fantastic contemporary dancer.

After viewing Rianto's SoftMachine performance it is certainly obvious that he is a very accomplished dancer, but also an extremely brave and honest performer. What you see on stage is a man, and also a woman, with a bright and shining love for dance, utterly immersed in the art of movement with both traditional training and character play, but also embracing an exploration of contemporary styles that is joyous to watch. This is, in fact, a documentary, projected footage taking us briefly along some of the path that Rianto has followed, making it extremely clear to us that this a very personal presentation, a window into the heart of a true performer and artist.

Rianto displays amazing control and ability within the traditional Indonesian styles in this performance, showing us both male and female characters with equal ability. An obvious ritual is played out at the start and end of each character demonstration, with quick costume changes accompanied by some cheeky and flirtatious moments from Rianto creating a warm connection with the entire audience with great ease. This enchantment is not restricted to his traditional styles. When a demonstration of contemporary abilities is supplied we are equally captured as this moment on stage is incredibly affective, though very simple in presentation, an empty stage and a small square of light in which to dance. Rianto is strong and effortlessly in control, as his body moves now in a way totally different to the other styles shown up to this moment. In a few words we are told some explanations and inspirations behind this style, which includes the fact that this is not specific in gender, unlike the traditional character dances that are very clear in the male/female counterparts. This was a simple but beautiful aspect to the masterful demonstration being provided on the stage.

This was an amazing and brave performance by this wonderful dancer. It is not to be missed, and certainly look out for more in the SoftMachine series as I am sure it will be prime viewing, just like Rianto.

Here is a taste of the performance.

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