In February 2020, I embarked on a research trip to Kaligesing in central Java and initiated a Dolalak dance ritual performance to be filmed. This case study is one of the last remaining group with male dancers, who still transmit the original dance notation from the 1930s. Here are excerpt of the interview with the head shaman of Budi Santoso Dolalak group.

Origins, History and

Hello Mr Jono, can you share with us a brief history of Dolalak?

Assalamu’alaikum warrahmatullahi wabarakatuh / May the peace be with you.

My name is Jono Prawirodirjo. I am from the village of Kaliharjo, Kaligesing, a sub-district of Purworejo in Central Java. I want to share the history of Dolalak as a characteristic of the Kaligesing tradition and generally by people in Purworejo.

The name was not Dolalak at first. At that time, there were some Dutch colonial soliders who were on duty, they make a dance in the “Tangsi” a temporary camp. This dance was chanced upon (observed) by some people from Sejiwan in Purworejo. These people observed the movements of the dance and also the song by the colonial soldiers, and it sounded like “Do La La… Do La La… Do La La…”

At the very beginning, there were three persons who created this dance. But I can only remember two of them at this moment… They are Mr. Duliat and Mr. Cokee…. I forget the last one. These three persons have backgrounds in different fields. One from music, one from dance, and one from poetry. The people of Sejiwan developed the dance ritual from the observations of those three.

The dance was named “Ndolalak”, not “Dolalak”. It was difficult for the Javanese tongue to pronounce “Dolalak”. As time went by, the people of Kaliharjo learned about arts of Dolalak from the Sejiwan people. In 1936, we develop the dance notation and formed the group Budi Santoso. We are the oldest Doalak group that has a complete written history. Our organisation has passed on for seven generation of leaders and I used to be the sixth leader from 1996-2013. It is led by Mr. Bambang from 2013 until now.

Why are you interested in the dance art of Dolalak, Mr. Jono?

Most of people only knew that Do-La-La is musical scale of 1-6-6. They didn’t know any other meaning besides that of the people of Netherlands dancing and singing dolala… dolala… For me personally, I am attracted to Dolalak because I come from the low middle class of people who love the Javanese arts and cultures, such as ketoprak and karawitan (Javanese musical instrument). Then, I stared to learned Dolalak under the guidance of Mr. Bambang and fell in love with it.

Is there any deeper connections of Dolalak with the Dutch colonial history?

We only imitated the movements. Oh, wait… we also imitate the solider uniform. Dolalak’s costume is inspired by the solider uniforms of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, which has badges on it, and also has a hat.

Why does Javanese want to dress up as dutch colonial army? Did they assume that white colonial has a higher social class?

The reason is only that the Dutchmen really loved to give food to the indigenous people. Because we cannot communicate well to the Dutchmen, the only connection was to observe what they were doing. That’s it.

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