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#3: Merenung


with Lenggang Raya (20 & 21 May 2023)

When we meet again after a two-session gap, we set out with the intention of trying to get some choreography done today. The Jiwa Galoreez ladies are, as usual, in different places all at once. Sazlyn, on her way out to go Hari Raya visiting. Kak Rainy in Tanjung Pinang, taking the call more peacefully in an assumed family home. Kak Mazni somewhere in her neighbourhood, where she can be with herself to take the call. This sight is slowly becoming a norm for me—where everyone is moving about or inert in their own little digital boxes.

We launch immediately into more technical aspects of the show—there are some worries of the music used due to copyright, but there are talks of it not being such a serious matter due to the “amateur nature” of the group. There is also a need to review participants, as the commitment has gone a bit hazy, and Hasyimah clarifies she might get P7:1SMA associates to join the show if the JG member numbers are too sparse. Mazni also expresses a worry about the choreography—what if the choreography is too complicated for them to learn in a tight timeline? What if their bodies are unable to cope with certain movements, that might be newer to them in contrast to Kembali?

In spite of these internal anxieties, we have to move on. The collection of songs that the ladies have suggested have now been compiled into a score, as pictured above. But there are only 2 songs being used for dancing (3, 4), culminating to around 5 minutes of choreography to learn. The rest of the songs serve to “merenung,” or “siap siap” the mood of the piece. The choreography will ultimately utilise elements of Joget and Inang, to complement prop and set pieces that will be already placed onstage beforehand and held by the performers.

Hasyimah asks if everyone can bring a kuali, tudung saji of a brown colour, a senduk, payung. All of the props live up to the ladies’ reflections of their Hari Raya experiences, carving out more prominent items instead of gestures this time around. The ladies also immediately chip in with each item they can bring, with everyone owning at least one item on the list that is slowly being consolidated. Even though the session has derailed slightly from being more choreography-based, I can see the vision of the performance with more ease, ranging from colours to objects.

After we settle on props, Hasyimah starts to get on her feet to demonstrate how items might affect the hand/foot coordination of Joget and Inang choreography. The Siti Nurhaliza song contrasts itself from the rest of the score due to it’s “manja” element, and Kak Rainy suggests to use a kain lepas with existing Raya costumes to help enhance what the song already intends to bring out. I’m really appreciating the ease of femininity in the piece, the embracing of gender and even its roles—which ironically might present itself as inherently performative when done in front of an audience. Gender is such a fun thing to play with, mock at, and put under scrutiny. Perhaps that journey never really ends, no matter how old you get.

“Ni betul betul berkenan masa lama,” Mazni comments wistfully, and my heart aches slightly. Hari Raya as a cultural holiday always means something different to whoever has come into contact with it, and it seems that for the JG ladies, it has likely changed a lot over the years. I wonder if there is still time and space for my relationship with Hari Raya to change. If my own fantasies of domesticity, home ownership, and communal care will ever come into fruition. If I will get the privilege of ageing enough to tell others how much I miss a certain point in time. Hasyimah expresses that most of her Raya isn’t filled with much visiting now because some of her extended family has already passed away. There is so much joy, grief and time coupled into a singular holiday—the glaring reminder that time passes and restarts, of people getting older, of babies being born and introduced into the family. Perhaps this performance is a way to stop all that time for a moment, selfishly, self-indulgently. I know I’d love to drown myself in it before I have to let time go on again.


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