An interview with Didik Hadiprayitno (Didik Nini Thowok)

In the eye of the public the lean and tall guy is a professional dancer who most of the times plays humorous female characters. Didik Hadiprayitno’s image as a comic dancer surfaced during the 1980’s in Yogyakarta when he succeeded in portraying through his humorous dance performance the traditional wooden doll of nini thowok—which was commonly played by Javanese children back in the old days. The name of the doll was later to become his popular nickname. Although the name of Didik Nini Thowok might be identified with comic dances, and humor might suggest something not serious or light, the following conversation with Didik will only prove the other way around. Humor is never about fooling around; to play a good comical character requires seriousness. Graduated in 1982 from ASTI Indonesia Dance Academy in Yogyakarta, Didik concentrates on the philosophy and techniques of local ethnic dances, from the classical dances of Yogyakarta and Surakarta to Bali, Cirebon and Madura dances. In 2000 Didik had the opportunity to study Onagata— a form of female impersonation in the Japanese Kabuki and Noh. In uly 200 he was enlisted among the performers in “Female Impersonators in Asian Theater” together with his colleagues from China, India and Japan. The founder and leader of Natya Lakshita Yogyakarta dance group is known as a dancer who is proficient in presenting many different female characters. In one of his pieces, he even wears two masks of contrasting characters covering the face and the back of the head. Capitalizing on impressive imagination and unique character, Didik could act in reverse without having to face the audience. Of course in such dance composition implies using the hands backwardly, pointing out from the one’s back; the body also needs to lean back in order to create the same effect as a bosom viewed from the front. Apparently, Didik Nini Thowok has decided to ‘commute’ between those characters and aspects: from male to female, from one personality to another, and from the front to the back sides. How could he manage to represent it all in a single body? And how could he internalize such differing characters into his own?
Next is an excerpt from an interview by Lono Simatupang (LS) with Didik Nini Thowok (DNT) on entering, being inside and outside a character. The interview took place on July 7 2004, at 19.45 to 22.20 western Indonesian time in his living room. Wearing a kimono and Japanese sandals Didik in his casual but refined manner explained about his experiences and thoughts. The conversation was accentuated by his typical Yogyanese jokes, two cups of wedang ronde and a few interruptions related to a dance costume in the making that he discussed with a lady friend of his.

LS: What do you think of a dance, what is a dance, and what make up a dance?
DNT: So, as my mentors have shown me, Javanese dance above all, though actually I’d like to refer not to Javanese dance exclusively, but dances everywhere, particularly in Asia, … we regard as earthly while the West more heavenly. They say that Western people are more into senses, intellects and the like, while most Asian prefers rasa (inner feelings). In the end this affects human behavior, however in the current globalization everything have become crossed, so even western people are learning Indonesian traditions, they too become Asian. Take my Noh teacher in Japan, for instance, Richard Schechner, he is an American, but rasane wis Mas, kaya wong Asia (his inner feelings are already Asian). His tolerance is very much like that of the Javanese. Actually, the Japanese have similar traditions with the Javanese. Always using rasa, do they not? It’s different from the American who always puts forward his/her senses first, isn’t it? So, I think art has a powerful impact on person’s characters.
Now, about dance, in learning how to dance, indeed, we have to first learn wiraga (literally, physical discipline). Wiraga is related to movement. The Javanese custom recognizes three vital things; wiraga, wirasa and wirama (rhythm). So, wiraga only deals with techniques of movement that can be learned. Wirama relates to music, how we move to the music and so on—that makes dance and music complementary. So if a person lacks wirama, he/she can only move yak-yakan (wildly, rashly), you see? … “Oo, bocah iki ora wirama” (literally “Oh, this kid doesn’t have the sense of rhythm), that’s how they say it in Java; but the most difficult thing to achieve is wirasa; it is related to soul. Wirasa is, to grasp the soul, to feel deeply. So if a dance is performed without soul we would see that the dance is ampang (light and dry)? Ora ana rasane (having no feelings). If it is cuisine then it is anyep (tasteless). It has no soul. So what people see is a soulless dance, isn’t it? For example, one is performing as a tease, but unless she captures the feeling she will simply present movement along with the music accompaniment. But there is no dance movement whatsoever…it feels ampang, soulless. That’s how the audience would feel. “You know …that person jogedane apik teknike (masters good dancing techniques), but somehow it feels … how would you say it… ceblih (literally, flavorless, pallid), doesn’t bite, and so on”. So those who have strong characters always bite. So when someone performs a flirtatious dance, she will also look adorable, carried away by the character being played. When a person plays as Rahwana, for instance, in anger, he will too feel the same emotion. The fury leased out by the dancer could be felt by the audience. They can feel the difference “So this is the character of Rahwana while, the character of Garuda is like that.” So that’s how it is, actually these things will deeply impact on any dance that we are learning. When I learn Japanese dances our elements are also very important.

LS: Are the things earlier explained limited to the codified dances, traditional, which have been codified in a certain manner, or, do they also go for modern dances?
DNT: Err.. modern as in what sense?

LS: Modern in the sense of not being codified, not following certain conventions, standards, and so forth.
DNT: Yes, now about modern dances. But, which definition of modern are we referring to? Because sometimes when we, or Indonesian people, see a modern dance it could refer to western dances, disco, that’s what people think as modern. So the term modern is still ambiguous. But when we speak of modern, in dance or performance art, let us say contemporary.

LS: Yes, okay.
DNT: I still think the three elements are important. Because, especially soul intensity. Because with passion will… err.. how do I put this? As I have mentioned before without a soul any dance performance will not bite, it will not affect the audience. Soulless, spiritless. So, wiraga, wirama, wirasa came out when I learned traditional dances. It is true I have become comic, ndagel, but it is because I have strong basis, I have deep roots in tradition, and it is imperishable. The three basic elements that have shaped the dancer’s body during process will not disappear. Correct? We obtained that from learning traditional dances. Because everytime I see my friends whose forte is contemporary dances, like Sardono (Sardono W. Kusumo, dancer—red.), his field is contemporary, but he already has an innate classical background. Of course he learned classic through the three elements. It is, afterall, a basic standard in dancing.

LS: Related to what I have mentioned before as codified and what you said as contemporary, does the difference between the two can be understand as the different between codified which serves to certain role or character and contemporary which tends to play as oneself?
DNT: So, the term contemporary relates to freedom. So, freedom of expression of the choreographer or dancer will result in the contemporary. Just like when the term contemporary was used in the West, all these terms are of course came from the West, before modern dance and contemporary exists there was only classical ballet. I think so. So it’s all the same thing in Indonesia, there are those who escape to the contemporary while they don’t have any traditional basis.

LS: Correct me if I’m wrong, so what you are trying to say is that those in contemporary dances also use basis or codes rooted in the traditional or the classical?
DNT: Exactly. Because those who made the so called rule of serat (literally, manuscripts) are actually artista, am I right? So, it turns out as the same, perhaps some of the contemporary dancers do not start out from the traditional and classical, but in process they eventually find it. As I have met also several contemporary artists from overseas who did not learn from their country’s tradition but eventually their performances also fulfill the three elements as such.

LS: All the greget and all ?
DNT: Sure they all have it.

LS: Then, what is the resemblance and difference between those who started out from convention and those who did not?
DNT: I see the difference lies … in the exploration of the body. So people with traditional basis are distinguishable even when they are performing contemporary dances, —for example when someone does a mudra—his/her hands will produce the form. But if a person doesn’t recognize the traditional forms of mudras, practically he will not even go there. That is a simple example.

LS: Do you mean to say that the difference lies in the wirag aspect?
DNT: Correct.

LS: What about the wirama aspect? Earlier you said that the wirasa aspect is the same thing?
DNT: Yes, the level of wirasa could be the same..

LS: Perhaps the codified in certain understanding will also come up in certain level of wiraga. Does that mean that people who do not start out from tradition will not achieve the same level of rasa, in practice they have different wiraga?
DNT: Of course yes, the wiraga will be different. In traditional dance, wiraga has already been achieved, while in the contemporary the main aspect is freedom; by moving freely—for example by jumping, rolling over. While in keeping with the traditional way, first we have to learn the pakem (standard, convention). Take wayang for instance, whether it is in the Solo or Yogya style, to be able to reproduce the specific pathetan (melodic pattern)… we need some learning process. So it would be a whole different discovery or learning process.
But I believe there will be a similar result in meaning..err.. what is it.. the rasa. So, the rasa between traditional and contemporary will remain different although the performance quality could be alike. But the form will definitely be different due to the different process.

LS: Earlier you mentioned something about greget or you also refer to it as soulful, as one of the indications, and the audience could feel it. I would like to understand how someone else could also feel the dancer’s rasa? Through what process or what medium?
DNT: It is not literally feeling the dancer. So it is like this, if we watch a performance, something touches us, impresses us, something touches our emotions and leave a deep impression on us. But there is also the time when we watch a performance, yet nothing interests us at all. So it means that the energy expressed by the actor or performer could not touch the audience. This doesn’t imply that the dancer and audience share the same feelings. But because he plays the role with soul, a character could be presented as a whole. And the audience grasps this holistic form. That’s how I see it. Consequently, it is rather difficult to explain. Say, a person could get carried away everytime he/she sees a performance; one could also get excited and so on; this is prompted by a performer who really succeeds in playing with his/her soul. So, if we become angry every time we see an antagonist in a movie or kethoprak it is because the character is well represented. So people actually hate A, remember? In Kraton for instant, so often does Dirjo Tambur play a nyengit (hateful) character that the actor could even get destested. It is because he really goes deep into the character. Unless he acts with his soul he could not touch the public’s heart.
So what touches the audience, I don’t really know the exact word, perhaps quality, the quality of the character which is perceived by the audience, enjoyed by the audience so that they could get carried away. Just like what I have explained earlier when people watch someone performing usually they became attracted. When some boys see a girl dancing erotic movements, they could be stimulated. These things mean that the actor has truly succeeded in presenting his/her role. … Regarding to dance, I have mentioned wiraga, wirama, wirasa, although generally a dance should have its own music, in contemporary dances sometimes music is not used because the body already has its own music. You understand? We could use any kind of music, it is not necessarily traditional music. Here lies the difference between traditional and contemporary dances, or I think that’s where it is. That’s according to me…. ha.. ha.. ha.. ha..! And maybe every artist have their own different perspectives. This is based on my experience; that is what I learned.

LS: Still on the relation between rasa and raga, is it the body that guides the soul or how do they mutually relate?
DNT: Based on my experience; it is when we are united, just like in a meditation. Whenever I dance something, I stop thinking about where the moves would end, it’s more spontaneous, like something is guiding me. It can no longer be separated. So that is the reason ..er.. I am quoting one of my teacher, that the wiraga and wirasa is dadi siji (literally, becoming one). So the three elements can no longer be separated, they have unified into a complete unity. (At the point where the unity is formed) a dancer has reached the level where he/she is considered successful in performing a character. … That’s why people say that dancing is identical with meditating, as in meditation the body and the soul dadi siji (unite)? There is a feeling of submission. And that is exactly what we have to achieve.

LS: Earlier you said that things we have learned from tradition are imperishable. I interpret the word ‘imperishable’ in a physical approach. For instance, the rigid movements that I have now is going to stay for a long time. I can also interpret it as a principle that guides how the body feels.
For me it is very interesting, as I have observed your experiences and works, which in my surface view, have explored various characters which subvert from traditional convention. How to relate between the imperishable things and the unification of the body to your unconventional choice of characters, the same traditional convention that has shaped your body?
DNT: This is a whole different level, a very complicated one and at the same time very interesting. For example, there is a dancer who is an expert only in Javanese dance. When she performs Balinese dances, the Balinese people will say that she doesn’t have any taksu (soul), there is no rasa because she is still Javanese. In terms of movement, she is Balinese but without having the Balinese soul. So we can say that it is a Balinese dance with the taste of Java ha.. ha.. ha.. or the other way around. Of course this is not an easy task to accomplish and not all dancers are capable enough for it.
I could do it but after a long process. During my learning process, as I have recalled, I learned both Balinese and Javanese at just about the same time. So I was not shaped by Javanese tradition then started to learn Balinese. No. So does the opposite situation. Because when I watched a friend of mine with deep-rooted Balinese culture in her, every time she performs a Javanese dance her Bali roots become visible. Indeed, no one is capable to dance entirely either in Balinese or Javanese. But there are certain levels when she performed the Balinese dance and the rasa appeared.

LS: The limitation is mainly due to the body, technically speaking, or does it also occur in rasa?
DNT: Rasa. The most important thing is rasa. That’s why earlier I said that there are certain levels. Sometimes when a dancer, in terms of movement, and in terms of the physical, is already Balinese but somehow the rasa does not exist, there is no taksu. Comments showed me that when I was dancing Balinese there was a presence of rasa but when I was disco dancing I didn’t look like a traditional dancer. Maybe since, among others, I have learned how to ngosong (literally, clearing the self). So when I wanted to learn Cirebon culture I had to be as clear as a sheet. The late Ben Suharto (a dancer—red.) also supported me on this. I used to consult with him. (He said) that it is true, in the wise words of my grandfather “ If you want to learn something you have to be a person who is mbodo.” Mbodo is pretending to be naïve, not literally naïve of course. Each time you are mbodo, you will open your heart, open your self so that anything to be learned could be understood easily. We open our hearts, when we ngosong, or whatever its name is, what Laurie Rose refers to it as zero.. zero position, and she also thinks that the zero position is imperative in the field of theater. About my learning time, when I was being ngosong or mbodo, whatever that is learned could enter us, everything, not only the movements but also the rasa.

LS: Isn’t there any clash inside your body regarding to the different rasa of Javanese, Balinese, Cirebon and so on ?
DNT: No, no. Perhaps this is due to the spiritual element. People can judge it as superstition, but I do several rituals in learning. Like on the other day, in 2000, before I joined the tour of Cross-Gender, a program sponsored by Japan Foundation, I learned Beskalan Putri by bringing a teacher from East Java. Up until then I still fulfilled certain rituals. If I did not open up myself, thinking, “I’m a Christian, so what am I doing with all superstitions of the ancient tradition, this is mystical, or whatever” I wouldn’t have accepted the rasa from my teacher.

LS: But, can we be totally empty? Every time we receive something new, wouldn’t we accept it with a new way of seeing or interpretation to what is given to us based on the passed experience?
DNT: I already said that in ngosong I need to mbodo, and whenever I am mbodo I become an apprentice taught by the teacher, so I will forget the fact that I am a kondang (literally, famous) dancer and others; since as soon as I remember it I will become an arrogant person. To my experience a knowledge that is only transitory will not be accepted. I wouldn’t open myself if I said “Well, I am an artist” or “I am a dancer” etc. Those attributes could affect us. It will pollute sincerity, while in ngosong sincerity is required. Sincerity here is something that I felt spiritually. Then the knowledge will enter, or we will accept the things that has ben given by someone. The body will accept.

LS: Concerning the nature of the body, is the body so flexible that it can shift easily from raga A, raga B, raga C; or is there any limitation?
DNT: Still there is a limit. For example, I was told that I am flexible, but it is not the flexibility of a plastic girl in a circus act. But it helps to have practiced intensively. So this is a quote unquote limitation.

LS: When you were learning raga A, B, C, and D in different time frame, did the memory in raga A weaken as you were learning raga C, or when you were learning raga D, did any of your previous learning come up?
DNT: Er.. How will I put this? In dancing we have to do several things so that, first , you will not forget the sequence,.. second, by exercising the movements will stay, as we already have the flexibility needed. Doing this repeatedly we will stop forgetting. So dance becomes spontaneous. So in dancing, a routine exercise is important, because if I didn’t dance A for a long time then it will disappear. Just like weapons if we do not grind it then it will be dull, more time is needed to sharpen it back. But somehow, it is already in shape, such as a knife, a knife that went kethul le ngasah luwih gampang (literally, would be easier to sharpen), it is already a piece of steel in the form of knife. Isn’t that so ?

LS: Okay. Now we will discuss about characters in dancing, let start with Klana dance. What have you done to play that role? How do you relate your personality to the character of Klana?
DNT: Er.. how will I explain this. It’s rather difficult.. ha.. ha.. ha.. So there is also an element of trance whenever I dance. I think trance is … or let me put it this way … December ahead I will make a cross-gender performance called Trance-formation. It s a language game, what I actually want to say is transformation but as there is an embodiment of character embodiment during the dance, some kind of trance. If we are in trance.. I think we have reached something more..but this experience is indescribable.

LS: Do you still find yourself inside it?
DNT: Not anymore. Because when we have trance, we are inside the character. There are two kinds of trance; in-trance, as in being possessed by spirits, and the kind which still involves control. And about this latter, simple trance, one may quote the teachings of Profesor Soedarsono that a dancer should achieve the state of trance. When I dance I do not know the audience before me although I see them. But when we are not in trance we still can see among the audience “Oh there is the Sultan and so on”; this means that we are yet to be inside a character. We can still recognize the audience. When we are tranced we no longer pay attention to the audience as we are already inside the character. So we are not thinking anymore about ‘here I am performing’. What is that? About the audience wis embuh (literally, forget it). We will not be aware. That is what tranced actually is. Why not in-trance? It is impossible, wong njoged ki kudu ana urutane (literally, because there is sequence in dancing) and how are we going to remember all that when we are possessed.

LS: So “trance” in this term still recognize consciousness?
DNT: True. Trance is still controllable. Perhaps, as I have not done any research about in-trance and how unconscious one is when he is possessed, I have talked with some traditional artists, such as Angguk, Jatilan. They say that every time a spirit begins to posses them it always feel like gringgingen (spasm) or cold, followed by loosing consciousness. And when he regains consciousness his body will be very exhausted. That is in-trance. But the strange thing is when in-trance how is it possible for them to keep dancing to the rhythm? I couldn’t even imagine it myself. Ha..ha..ha..

LS: Next, the one thing I want to know, what is the medium for you to enter the process of trance? Does it have to do with only rasa or does it relate with raga as well? Does material also help to enter?
DNT: I think so. Physically speaking, perhaps it lies in the submission. Er… isn’t submissiveness part of emotions?

LS: Yes, I think so too. I imagine it like this, does make-up, for example, also help the dancer to achieve trance?
DNT: Er.. how is it. Well if we put it separately it maybe difficult. But ..err. how to explain this. So if we perform a character some uba-rampe (literally, bits and pieces) have already been prepared. When I perform as Srikandi (a mythical Javanese character) the posture must be exactly like this, then the make-up has to be like this, the whole thing has to be like this and we already have a reference on how a Srikandi should be like. So when we have our make-up, we see in the mirror, it is supposed to be our own image but we have to believe that what we see is the image of Srikandi. So it is also affecting. When we stand before a mirror we change into Srikandi bam! And that’s it ! While in the ancient times there were some chants.
LS: Chants were needed?
DNT: Topeng Cirebon also has chants.

LS: What if we are wearing a mask, the mirror process will be replaced with what?
DNT: If it involves a mask, maybe by looking at the mask. My teachers in Topeng Cirebon took years to see a mask. So the process of seeing.. (not continued).. gampangane (literally, to make things easier) we will use an example. Let say we have a pet dog. For years. Of course we are apal to sama anjingku dhewe (literally, familiar with our own dogs); the feeling. The process will form our character. I may see two highly identical dogs but my feeling tells me that my dog is that one. It has something to do with the body and rasa, isn’t it? Back to rasa, you see? We cannot distinguish rasa, instinct and so on. It cannot be written down, it is difficult to elaborate. For example, you often experience your instinct tells you that you should go there. Sometimes it happens right? … That’s my experience, the things that we achieve when we are pure, in our hearts or we have a certain level of sensibility. Sensibility is exercised through rasa. You reckon?
There are many ways to practice, through fasting, disciplines and spiritual exercises. It is really helpful. There are also many kinds of disciplines. For instance when a person gets so concentrated in learning to dance that he forgets to eat and sleep. Actually this is done unintentionally. Well it is also a discipline. Tell me that by doing such things there is no positive impact, of course there is. …

LS: Have you ever found difficulties in becoming a character, “to become this certain character is very complicated”?
DNT: About that, I think every artist know their own self, their personal capability. So if one tries to play an antagonist, is he capable? Could be yes or no. Everything has a process. Take me for example, I choose to be a female-impersonator. When I want to try a male dance I have to reflect upon myself, am I capable enough to do it? It is by process that we can know and not know; attempting to learn the dance, I try to play the character, but it doesn’t feel fit. And at the second I don’t feel it fit, I realize that it will not work.

LS: Does it have any relation with the imperishable things that we discussed about earlier. For instance, when you decided to become a female-impersonator, and reputed since then, has it stopped you from becoming a” male impersonator”?
DNT: Yes it could happen. After all, it has been shaped already. There is what you call the shaping of character, especially in theater perhaps, like when we see a movie, we see a distinct A character, she goes well as a grouchy character. Pick any movie star, like B he suits at being a bad guy. So it’s impossible for him to take part as a good guy. As people have assumed by now, every time he appears in movie he is likely to be the bad guy. So he really grasps the soul of the character. This doesn’t mean that he is not capable of playing other characters which is the opposite to what he used to do, perhaps he can do it, but also maybe because he has already made an option of not going that way.
LS: Have you ever taken a role that is the opposite to your option?
DNT: Not yet. He he he he

LS: Okay .Among the female that you impersonate certainly there are various characters. Is there any of the female characters which you find most difficult to impersonate?
DNT: To tell you the truth, there isn’t any. I have impersonated an old lady, the tease, the elegant, even the goddess. Fortunately I have no trouble impersonating each character. Maybe it has something to do with my choice as a female impersonator, so that I can play any kind of characters. So far. But I don’t know if there will be other female characters. Ha ha ha ha

LS: What about from the difficulty level to enter a character? Do all female characters have the same levels of difficulty or do they differ in degrees?
DNT: The different degrees of difficulty do exist. The fact that I am shaped as a comedian also gave influence. It will actually have psychological effects on audience as well. For example, when I took the stage in Indonesia I would not bother to perform the gentle dance of Golek. Indonesian audience is widely varied. It is acceptable when I perform a subtle composition before the public of art, they would understand the classical Bedaya and others because they know them. But if I do it before people in general? I’m afraid they will jeer, protest. That’s the problem. Since in Indonesia, public has already labeled me as a comedian. So when I perform serious dances, not that I can’t do it, it’s just that the audience will protest. I have to consider, whether I dance for the sake of the audience or art. So when I was collaborating in Bedaya Hagarama with Japanese counterparts, it was intended as an artistic performance, this made most of my audience feel disappointed. Although I tried to give an excuse that my current performance is not ndagel (literally, joking) melucu), so I said to them.
But in the countries abroad, since I am not internationally known as a comedian I always begin with two forms. In the repertoire I perform four dances, two which are klasik sik deles (literally, genuinely classic) and two comicals—my own choreography. Usually it sparks an interesting discussion, how my performances that portray traditional principles later shift to a wacky female impersonator. It is becoming an object of analysis.

LS: In the traditional dances you also play female characters?
DNT: Yes.

LS: Neither one of them is male?
DNT: Correct. I have made my choice and it has been shaped that way for so many years, I have become more sreg (literally, apt) and I could perform it with more mantep (literally, confidence).

LS: So far you have explained a lot of things about character in dancing. But still I could not help wondering how you can play more than one female character in one of your dance composition, not to mention they are two contrasting characters How can you manage to do that?
DNT: I have done it before; the last time was in November in Japan. There I was collaborating with Japanese and Korean artists. I portrayed two contrasting characters at one time. The first one is I became the Goddess of Amaterasu, she is the Sun Goddess and in the next scene I played as Uzume. Uzume is a sexy, hot and one of a crazy woman. I wore a mask like Limbuk (a clown—a female servant in wayang—ed.). Those are two different characters altogether. So, in the first scene I played as Amaterasu, I portrayed the character of a goddess with her elegance and all; then I changed into the crazy Uzume. After, in the last scene I returned to become Amaterasu. And I feel very lucky that I can perform it.

LS: Do you mind telling me the exercise you have to go through in order to play and shift parts like that?
DNT: I think it all began when I learned ngosong. When I do ngosong I become others, I abandon my own identity. Perhaps, that sort of exercise. During the first time I played as the Sun Goddess then turned into the crazy Uzume, I have forgotten myself being Amaterasu. As soon as I changed costume and mask, at once I turned into Uzume. Immediately, automatically. And when I took off the Uzume mask and returned to play the Sun Goddess and bam! I was her. So, I think it has something to do with my habit; I often do it during the daily life so I don’t find any trouble doing it.

LS: In that case what about performing with two masks simultaneously, when there is no change of costumes or attributes? How do you do it?
DNT: In the beginning, it took quite a long time to discover the technique. Initially I have to face many obstacles in doing the dwi-muka (literally, double face) compared to now. Now that I have done it this long, since 1987, it is easier for me to transfer the feeling to the backside.

LS: It involves a transfer of feeling to the backside? I could not imagine how it goes?
DNT: First of all it requires awareness, I mean, I wear a mask in the back of my head, before with the help of a mirror of course, sometimes I also asked my assistant to help me seeing. I asked him: “What is the effect of this movement?” Then he replied: “It is too low” hypothetically speaking. So I have to be aware. When my position is like this (lifting his chin) then the mask behind my head will….

LS: Will nod down…
DNT: Correct. So it works the other way around. So I have to be like this (while pulling down the level of his chin). That is how it works. The trainings are quiet complicated and difficult. Being aware means that I still have to use my brain. But while moving every now and then people tend to forget. So what needs to be learned is how to keep moving without forgetting the techniques.

LS: So the learning process and internalization took place in a quite a long time, as you have started the dwi-muka since 1987 isn’t it?
DNT: Yes. And I keep observing the video tape, I also learned through video tape. Oh, in this position my chin is not high enough, and in that position my body is too much protruding to the back—it is supposed to be like this. So, that is why I have to be fully alert.

LS: Such rehearsal could be understood technically, just like what you said before about being fully alert. But when it has been unified….
DNT: It’s already done.. It’s done… The technique will spontaneously flow. That’s what we call trance. We stop thinking by then.

LS: But how could the trance could happen inside two characters?
DNT: I don’t know!! Ha ha ha.. You tell me. Ha ha ha

LS: Trance inside one character, like Panji, is easier to accept. But with two characters…
DNT: I don’t understand either … ha ha ha… what is the limit for trance? Me, I am more certain that an x factor has more part, because every time I will perform I always pray. Since I am a Christian, then the pray would be Our Father or Ave Maria. Total submission. After praying I also do a tradition done by my mentor. I am pretty sure that an x factor plays an important part, it is impossible not to; as occasionally I saw myself dancing in the video. I couldn’t even believe that it was me who is dancing. How can I be like that? Why? I used to have that kind of feeling. Ha ha ha ha…Strange isn’t it?

LS: Speaking of video, what is your opinion about using a record medium as an exercise aid?
DNT: Other than for documenting, seeing it would help us in self reflecting. I lack this or that.. We can also learn our weaknesses in the performance…When I play back my video tape I become an audience, I am watching myself. But when I am a performer, there is no way I could see my own weaknesses. It is an important thing to see our own weaknesses.

LS: I am trying to make a connection between the fact that you are a performer and a play back audience. Can I say that by doing it you are building a bridge between the audience and the performer within you?
DNT: Er.. Probably yes. But I am not really aware of it, perhaps. Because I do it out of need. So then it became an unintended procedure, some say it is unengineered. But the fact is it is important, isn’t it? There are many things that I find important. But these findings could only happen through process. For this reason, like I have said many times, it is important to exercise our rasa, because it has deep impact on almost everything; either we perform on stage or in our personal daily life. It is for the better actually. So sometimes I wonder how come an artist could have an impressive work but his attitude is quite the opposite… ha.. ha.. ha.. And these things happen.. and it’s human… ha.. ha.. ha..! You agree with me?

LS: Yes, yes. There I can see the possible relation between the personal daily life and …
DNT: On stage.

LS: Social character and stage character..
DNT: They are different!

LS: Different?
DNT: But actually, if….how is it? True that if it only involves an individual character could be different. Like when a person.. now take Dirjo Tambur for example who is famous for his hateful part in a kethoprak play. He is actually not grouchy. He does not have that character in everyday life. But that is how human being is. Earlier when we try to make a connection sometimes it makes me wonder. As I said before, a dancer trains her rasa, and a person whose rasa is trained has great sensibility. Tolerance and all. But somehow the mental state which is formed inside an individual since his childhood or has become his personal attitude is fixed. We can only change it through disciplines of training. That is the fact. That’s why earlier I said about someone whose works is so impressive but as a human being he cannot guarantee that he is a self sensitive person, possessing tolerance.

LS: Could the trance, achieved by a role player who is dissolving with the character on stage, be passed on to the daily life?
DNT: I don’t really know. Er.. I haven’t done any research on it yet. But, based on my personal experience as an impersonator it has an affect in gestures, daily lagean (mannerism, conduct) is affected—like my mentor in Japan, Onagata, he is a cross-gender in Japan—so a person should be effeminate because on stage he plays as a woman who is weak, extraordinary and so on. So it affects daily appearance. This doesn’t mean that he always appear as the stage character, of course not! But still it is apparent although only a small percentage.

LS: In your experience as an impersonator of many female characters, its effects are allocated evenly in everyday life or you need to selectively bring them according to the context?
DNT: I don’t know about that… ha.. ha..If there is a person who is inclined to notice it.. that person would not be me. While for me I do all these things casually, as they are.. without having to summon up on what has happened on stage. But I think other will see it differently; that Didik is infected by his previous characters as female—hear how he speaks in high speed (for some, speaking quickly is attributed to female characters ed.), although celelekane (silly jokes) is also inspiring, isn’t that true? Ha.. ha.. ha..!

LS: Ha.. ha.. perhaps your hobby to make jokes is your nature since the day you were born; one part that cannot be eliminated. Ha.. ha.. ha..