Trina Acacia / Bali
“The Joy Of Encounters”
“The Joy Of Encounters”
Written by Trina Acacia
Translated by Stasya Yovela
Trina loves encountering other people.
For her, every encounter with other people can teach her many things, if they’re open to each other. Every day, people cross paths, but they do not meet each other. For Trina, just crossing paths is easy—just looking at people from their appearances. It’s unlike an actual encounter, where there’s self-direction from each subject and an emotional connection from the subconscious. This emotional connection takes shape when one accepts another as a part of oneself. Like dancing, when you find the right dance partner or group, you feel like something’s amiss when those people are replaced and they no longer dance with you.
Trina learned the meaning of encounters through dance. During her time in university, Trina had quit dancing because she’d been focused on pursuing a high GPA. Her competitive instincts were pushed to the forefront when she noticed the ambitious attitudes of her friends in her batch —they used to swarm the library at the University of Indonesia, supposedly the biggest in Southeast Asia. There, they would have discussions and read books. However, Trina’s being academically ambitious only lasted the first two semesters. Trina had thought that being a philosophy student would make her even more distant from the world of dance because she’d have to spend her time with books, sitting alone and thinking hard like the philosophers of ancient times.
One day, she read a work of one of her lecturers, Embun Kenyowati, about the philosophy (aesthetics) of dance. The work made Trina realize that studying philosophy could bring Trina closer to the world of dance. It was as if she was awoken from a long slumber while also berating herself, why attend university if it’s just bringing her farther away from her dream? So, she mustered up the confidence to join a dance group specializing in Latin and Standard—genres of dance that were still foreign to her ears. She was interested in joining because she saw how friendly the group had been when they were promoting the class.
There was someone named Nico, a fellow newcomer that later became her dance partner. They were learning Latin and Standard dance from the beginning. At first, they both felt like they weren’t compatible, but as time went by they unified their energies. How did they do it? Accepting one another’s presence.
Sometimes Trina was hard to deal with—she said she liked trying and learning things from the scratch but she sometimes made excuses to skip practice. In the middle of practice, Trina often complained to Nico, “I’m tired! Learning jive dance techniques isn’t as fun as learning traditional Indonesian dance!”
Nico advised Trina, “If you want to learn, you have to open yourself up, don’t let your past experiences become your burden!”
After graduating university, Trina moved to Bali. Unintentionally in early 2020, Trina saw a Tor-tor¹ dance group in Uluwatu district. There were roughly six of them including the instructor. They were practising at an open field, bare feet, and without the ulos, the shawl characteristic of Batak culture. Trina was confused, why weren’t they wearing the ulos? She remembered when she was young, when she learned Tor-tor for the first time, her Tor-tor instructor obligated her and her friends to wear their ulos during practice. The instructor would punish them for not wearing ulos cloth. However, what this Tor-tor group in Uluwatu did make her question her experience—were we actually not supposed to wear the ulos during practice?
Trina also paid attention to the movements and speech of the Tor-tor instructor in Uluwatu—friendly and soft like a mother, completely different from her old Tor-tor instructor who was fierce and callous when correcting the dancers’ postures. When she was little, Trina had a slouched posture so her Tor-tor instructor had repeatedly pressed on Trina’s back. The touch had been rough and painful. Her Tor-tor instructor’s treatment became present in her subconscious and affected her reactions every time she met someone new who was a Tor-tor instructor. Every time she practices Tor-tor, Trina always remembers the pain of her teacher’s touch. However, that afternoon Trina saw a new depiction of a Tor-tor instructor. Trina approached the Tor-tor instructor and struck up a conversation—even though it was just for a little awhile because the instructor had to get back to the students.
For Trina, when she opens herself up to new possibilities, she can see more things and realize that each human being was a unique individual. The presence of other people makes her conscious of each individual’s uniqueness and because of that no-one’s identity will be the same as another’s. Even if they were both Tor-tor instructors, they were still separate individuals—their characters, their experiences, their mindsets would be different, and so on.
Sometimes Trina gets confused amid crowds—Trina calls them identity crowds—many people around her have different backgrounds. In these crowds, Trina doesn’t know which voice to listen to. Trina doesn’t know which voice is right. Trina also doesn’t know if she is worth a voice.
During dance practice, some dancers lift their legs high, and some cannot. Trina’s confused, whose body movement was right? However, the more often she encounters diversity, the more she gets used to it and at the same time realizes that diversity is what makes dance dynamic and alive—not monotonous. Trina realizes that dance will go on. This is the time to continue the journey and open another door for the presence of a new person.
In the middle of Trina’s adventure of observing Bali, she met a painter from the Netherlands who’d been living in Bali for a long time, her name was Noella Roos. For her, Noella was a very unique individual because she was a painter who liked drawing more. She called herself ‘painter’ because the word ‘sketch artist’ wasn’t quite common yet in Indonesian. Even more unique, Noella didn’t draw still objects like most artists, but she drew moving objects instead. That was why Noella liked to draw dancers. When Noella asked Trina to dance at her studio, their collaborative work began.
When their energies were connected, they could feel each other’s emotions. One day, Trina was feeling depressed because one of her friends in Jakarta had gotten hurt after taking part in a demonstration in front of the Parliament Building. Trina didn’t feel like working that day. She just wanted to go to Jakarta and embrace her friend. That day, Noella could read Trina’s emotional chaos without Trina telling her. Noella made Trina coffee and asked Trina to tell her what had happened. Noella completely understood how much Trina loved coffee and how it was easier for her to talk with a cup of coffee in her hand.
While Noella and Trina talked, there was no judgement between them. They both talked and listened, and neither of them judged. Trina felt accepted by Noella because of that. Likewise, Trina could feel how Noella was always so passionate about talking about her work. Every time she visited Noella’s studio, Trina observed Noella’s works and gave comments on them.
There was one drawing of Noella’s that Trina really loved, the one made when Trina was dancing in a half-sitting position. Trina expressed how much she loved the drawing but for Trina, her feet in the drawing looked disproportionate. Trina candidly told this to Noella. Noella was incredibly happy when Trina gave that comment because it was a sign that Trina paid attention to what Noella was doing, and it also meant that Trina was involved.
Maybe if Trina and Noella hadn’t accepted and understood each other, they would have merely become business partners—there wouldn’t have been any conversations about Trina’s biggest dreams, why Trina wanted her weight to stay stable, about the painters that Noella admired, about the dancers that they thought were too dramatic, and so on. They do not know exactly how long their partnership would last. It could be another encounter ending in separation. Anything is possible…
Encounters are a mystery—you will never know why you were met with a certain person, neither will you know what will happen next. Ideally, Trina could keep dancing with all of them, even dancing the same dance. However, dance will still be dance—not only having a new beginning, but also the middle and final parts. Tomorrow we will dance a new one and meet new friends. When other people appear, we get to choose: do you want to just cross paths with them, just exchanging names or exchange impressions?
¹ Tor-tor is a traditional dance from Batak/Tapanuli tribe of North Sumatera.