Tarian Malam

Tarian Malam

Brisbane Powerhouse, Darwin Festival, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Supported by BEMAC

Brisbane Powerhouse

9th – 11th August 2012

Reviewed by Alys Gwillim

One of the original sins of the earth was to receive Eve after her escape from Paradise.
The guilt continues when the woman (mother) carries on being a sacrifice for the greed of the world. The quake is to right the wrong.


Tarian Malam is Indonesian (or, as my mother likes to pronounce it “indo-knee- zeean”), for night dances, which not so coincidently is the name of Nam Jombang Dance Company’s latest piece to hit the Brisbane Powerhouse Visy theatre.

Before the performance, whilst reading the programme, I found it quite perplexing that the Choreographer, Ery Mefri, was described as a composer also. Likewise, the dancers (Angga Mefri, Rio Mefri, Geby Mefri, Intan Mefri, Ririn Mefri, Tonny Ryadi, Rahmat Dani) were also called musicians; a rarity when going to see a dance performance! But it all became clear as the piece went on.

Two days after watching the performance I still find it hard to decide whether I personally like the piece or not. Don’t get me wrong, there some amazing moments jam packed with skill and passion. However, I’m not entirely sure they out-weighed the parts that … lacked, shall we say. The term ‘dance’ when describing the piece is to be interpreted loosely. I wouldn’t necessarily describe walking and high releases after banging a drum dancing, but I’m snooty when it comes to contemporary dance. The piece certainly had Postmodern Contemporary dance elements to it so I’ll get off my high horse.

The genesis of the full-length work comes from a shared experience of the company. On September 30th 2009 at 5pm, Ery Mefri and five dancers from the company moved their daily rehearsal from an indoor venue to a cooler environment outside. Moments later a 7.6 scale earthquake rocked the city killing over one thousand people and injuring another three thousand.


Well I’ll admit, that is some powerful stuff to draw inspiration from! And was definitely the catalyst of the moments that were simply mind blowing. These moments were the singing. The entire cast could sing… in tune. And could hold perfect harmonies. A featured female cast member could manipulate her voice in a way I thought was only achievable with auto tune and editing. It was an emotion provoking display, no doubt about that! Side Note: This tortured vocalist/dancer/musician looked eerily like Kourtney Kardashian!

Another moment was the beginning duet between the Kourtney Kardashian look-a-like and a male. It was the definition and epitome of control. It created beautiful freeze frames without the dancers bodies ever drawing to a halt. Despite the fast paced, dynamic, breath taking, ear drum bursting drumming sequences that had you on the verge of really feeling the fear, the anger and the magic, I found unfortunately it would end too quickly and go back to a mellow walking sequence.

This piece could never not be called intuitive and clever, simply because everything had a purpose. For example the pants worn by each performer. Initially, I found them an odd choice to dance in as they had a crutch that seemed to touch the floor, however; they became percussion instruments… The drums became props, to leap onto as well as music makers. The crescendo of the piece was symbolised by the plates falling from side stage and the ceiling became a beautiful metaphor of the final straw.

Maybe I am just heartless and too ignorant of cultural references and language barriers to have fully appreciated what was being performed in front of me. After all, there were people in the audience who were sobbing just as hard as the performers were. I believe Tarian Malam was acoustically spectacular with the drumming of drums, bodies and costumes, sometimes so fast their hands of steel became invisible, but visually spectacular … not so much.



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