The Narratives
of Indonesian


Ariel Nurannisa Mulyanegara / Bandung – West Java

“A Dancer In A Time Of Pandemic”

“A Dancer In A Time Of Pandemic”

Written by Ariel Nurannisa Mulyanegara 

Translated by Ezrani Julinda

I woke up and checked my phone right away. A jazz class by Marguerite Derricks would start in an hour. I like the choreography she made in “Fame”. This kind of chance to learn from the master at an affordable cost wouldn’t come often, right? I got up soon from my bed. 

I had made sure my laptop was fully charged. I didn’t want to pause the class only to charge my laptop. My breakfast was simply a slice of bread with chocolate spread and a glass of water. I won’t let my stomach growl during the class. After breakfast, I changed my pyjamas with my dance practice outfit: a sports bra, a loose shirt, and a pair of long leggings. Okay, I’m ready!

I took my laptop out of my bedroom heading to my practice room, then I set it up and put the speaker portable in a comfortable distance for following the class. I also arranged the room to spare me enough space to optimize my movements in this small room. Next, I warmed up and stretched to prepare my body before the class. It was five minutes to nine. I opened my laptop, turned on the Virtual Private Network (VPN), and went to the site where the class was held.

I watched a short video for several minutes before Marguerite finally appeared on the screen. Without further ado, Marguerite started the lesson. Her assistant stood with her back to the camera to let the participants follow each move according to Marguerite’s instruction. The class began with simple moves, only some walking and posing. But behind such simplicity, we need to put our energy to make those movements look expressive. The first four minutes was fine for me. 

But then, the choreography explanation and instruction accelerated. Also, the moves were still unfamiliar to my body. When I was  adjusting my body to start moving, a new count began. I could pause the class, but I couldn’t rewind the video since it was not live on a Youtube channel. I couldn’t ask Marguerite directly as the site didn’t have a live chatting feature. Marguerite then instructed her assistant to do a reverse turning jeté. In this small room, I tried to do it and…I failed. That was because I did not master the move demonstrated. 

Honestly, a long stay-at-home time has made me lazy to practice and work on my body. A big dancy leap should look graceful and strong, but I made it as a small leap with shaky and sloppy legs. The longer I went through the class, the more I lost my enthusiasm. I got frustrated. I only recorded the class with my phone at last and I was dissatisfied with my performance back then. This dance class did not work on me.

It did not only happen once. This pathetic habit I have when joining online classes has been going on for two months during this self-quarantine. At first, I was excited to follow the movements, but then I ended up just watching it. Learning something only by observing is certainly possible, but still, there is a certain satisfaction if I could dance that difficult combo. How can I show progress if I can’t do lessons or materials given in this kind of rare event? 

I want to show that I can keep up with difficult choreography. Even though it’s not a perfect move, I just want to look good at dancing. I am happy when I can express myself in an “ideal” dance movement. Besides, if we dance with improvisation, we will master various moves and I will then give an impression to people that I am truly a dancer. If we can dance in any shape of moves, that means we can express ourselves better, right?

But, wait! Why do I want to show off my progress as a dancer? A capability to express oneself properly through dance shows that one can really dance. A long experience in dancing should not be wasted and demand appreciation, right?

To be honest, the pandemic makes me scared that I would waste my dancing experience for uncertain things. To perform dances in time like this will not bring satisfaction for other people, let alone for myself. 

Is it all worth it? Will this give me something? Because it doesn’t make as much as it was before in financial terms. In the end, dancing becomes a burden. I would either feel that I’m not good enough, not really happy, or even bored. Dancing doesn’t feel like it used to, as a source of joy for me where I have the freedom to express myself without thinking about my impression.

Deep inside, I have this urge to show my dancing skills. It makes me more excited to express myself. It does feel good when you get compliments, doesn’t it? With this pandemic situation, I can only upload all my dance videos on Instagram. What I could get from there are only likes and comments. But is that enough?

Before the pandemic, I did not feel like I’m all alone when learning something as I can feel a kind of energy of my friends and teachers. At the same time, it became a reminder through the joy within the process of dancing. Whether the result was good or not, such energy made me want to keep dancing. Thus, don’t you think that the energy itself is an indirect form of appreciation? I think appreciation is a recognition that someone can dance.

In online classes, although I received compliments like “good job” for practising a move, I am still not driven enough. Likewise, with online performances, we cannot feel the energy of the spectacles straight off, making blood rush while we are on the action with full of passion. I feel like appreciation and energy are related.

The shift from offline to online significantly affected me as a dancer. In times like this, great performance and dancing knowledge burst out and in abundance, just like finding an oasis in a desert. However, at the same time, I get fatigued due to massive information. Whenever I’m learning something new, I want to grasp it well and show that I’ve learned it. But before I realized, it had turned into a chaotic situation where people do it for the sake of “productivity race”. Something that once I could enjoy and do with no burden, now it becomes an indication that I live in an era where my existence as a dancer should come first, although sometimes I don’t enjoy it.

Maybe the situation will soon return to how it was… But as a dancer, will I stay the same after all?

The Narratives
of Indonesian