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Stunning Males and Powerful Females

Stunning Males and Powerful Females: Gender and Tradition in East Javanese Dance

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Stunning Males and Powerful Females
    Book Description:

    In east Javanese dance traditions like Beskalan and Ngremo , musicians and dancers negotiate gender through performances where males embody femininity and females embody masculinity. Christina Sunardi ventures into the regency of Malang in east Java to study and perform with dancers. Through formal interviews and casual conversation, Sunardi learns about their lives and art. Her work shows how performers continually transform dance traditions to negotiate, and renegotiate, the boundaries of gender and sex--sometimes reinforcing lines of demarcation, sometimes transgressing them, and sometimes doing both simultaneously. But Sunardi's investigation moves beyond performance. It expands notions of the spiritual power associated with female bodies and feminine behavior, and the ways women, men, and waria (male-to-female transvestites) access the magnetic power of femaleness. A journey into understudied regions and ideas, Stunning Males and Powerful Females reveals how performances seemingly fixed by tradition are instead dynamic environments for cultural negotiation and change surrounding questions of sex and gender.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09691-4
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Note on Conventions
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface: Inspiration
    (pp. xiii-xxx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  6. 1. Aims and Approaches
    (pp. 1-32)

    Stunning Males and Powerful Femalesis about gender, power, and tradition—topics that are all the more fascinating in the regency of Malang in east Java, Indonesia, a place where the majority of people are Muslim and where cross-gender dance performance is quite common. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork spanning the years 2005 to 2007, this book focuses on ways male and female performers have accessed and embodied femaleness through east Javanese presentational dance and its music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, examining the perseverance of “female power” in the face of a variety of cultural pressures that work to...

  7. 2. Maintaining Female Power through Male Style Dance
    (pp. 33-62)

    This chapter explores some of the ways female dancers, as well as the mostly male musicians who accompanied them, were maintaining and making cultural space for the expression of women’s magnetic female power through women’s performance of male style dance, building from earlier analyses (Sunardi 2009, 2013). I first establish that for centuries, women in Java have expressed and embodied a magnetic power that is connected to their femaleness and that they have done so in myriad ways, including sexually, economically, and martially (i.e., abilities as fighters). I show that a certain ambivalence in the Javanese imagination has surrounded these...

  8. 3. Negotiating Pressures in Terms of Gender: Male Dancers and Female Style Dance
    (pp. 63-93)

    This chapter develops some of my earlier analyses (Sunardi 2009, 2013) to further explore some of the ways in which male dancers who performed female style dance (or had performed female style dance prior to my fieldwork) have been pushing at dominant conceptual and physical boundaries of gender and sex by expressing, embodying, and representing male femininity in diverse ways on- and offstage. I argue that male dancers, in so doing, have been contributing to the ongoing cultural production of tradition and maintaining cultural space for males to access and make visible the magnetic power of femaleness. The ways male...

  9. 4. Constructing Gender and Tradition through Senses of History
    (pp. 94-126)

    This chapter explores how performers constructed senses of gender—including boundaries of femaleness and maleness—as they established what comprised tradition through their senses of history. I argue that the ways performers connected femaleness, the female style danceBeskalan Putri, the past, spiritual power, and Malang as they talked to me indicates ways of thinking that in effect maintain cultural space for the magnetic power of femaleness and connect female power to Malangan identity. The senses of femaleness and its power that performers associated withBeskalan Putriwere so strong, I further posit, that they shaped the ways performers understood...

  10. 5. Maintaining the Representation of Female Power through Beskalan Putri
    (pp. 127-157)

    This chapter examines some of the ways in which artists have maintained cultural space for the representation of female power throughBeskalan Putrias they have adapted, taught, remembered, learned, performed, and talked about this dance. I focus on representations of female power throughBeskalan Putribecause, building on the senses of history explored in the previous chapter, this dance and the femaleness performers associated with it were critical to their senses of Malangan tradition. This analysis thus further illustrates the selection of tradition and the construction of gender as mutually constitutive cultural processes. Considering artists’ concerns with preservation as...

  11. 6. Where Tradition, Power, and Gender Intersect: Performer Interactions
    (pp. 158-182)

    This chapter uses analysis of performer interaction to round off my exploration into gender, power, and tradition, bringing together many of the themes and issues discussed in previous chapters to demonstrate some of the ways that micro-moments of interaction on- and offstage are critical moments of complex cultural and ideological work. Intrigued by what my teachers indicated were theasli—the authentic, real, original, complete—forms ofBeskalan,Ngremo, and masked dances, which they talked about reverently but rarely had opportunities to perform, I sponsored rehearsals and recording sessions with the aim of documenting as many of these dances in their...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 183-184)

    In exploring dance performance as a dynamic site of cultural negotiation and change, this book has argued that through the continuous transformations performers have made to tradition, they have been negotiating culturally constructed boundaries of gender and sex—sometimes reinforcing these boundaries, sometimes transgressing them, sometimes doing both simultaneously. I have approached the cultural production of tradition and gender as mutually constitutive processes, examining how dancers and musicians have pushed at the gender dualism characteristic of dominant ideologies to articulate complex senses of gender—including senses of female masculinity and male femininity (Halberstam 1998; Boellstorff 2004b, 2005b, 2007)—in particular...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 185-192)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 193-194)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 195-210)
  16. Index
    (pp. 211-218)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-222)