Dancing Own/Other's Faith: The Encounters of Religion and Dance in Contemporary Javanese Muslim Context

Dancing Own/Other's Faith: The Encounters of Religion and Dance in Contemporary Javanese Muslim Context
Dewi Cahya Ambarwati


This dissertation engaged with the multiple faiths concerns under the frame of inter-religious studies. The works correlated religion and dance through the practices of the dance practitioners.. They involved certain dance presentations of Ramayana in Prambanan, Golek Menak, and Sholawatan Emprak.

I limited this research to the experiences of dancing practitioners. It was central to capture the significances of why the Muslim dancers performed Ramayana Hindu epic that they did not belong to the faith, but were situated in an Islamic context, and how they fitted in dancing Golek Menak and Emprak that highlighted Islam of their own faith. As they made use bodily practice and motion in dancing, it was also critical to call attention to how they understood their own bodies and employed their bodily experiences to transcend not necessarily within vertical line to God, but went beyond to arrive at spirituality. Also, the changing social context contributed to the dynamics of the performing Muslim dancers. The research utilized a multi-sited approach to the phenomenological study of these kinds of contemporary Javanese Muslim discourse from 2016 to 2018. Incorporating the strategy of participatory-practice method,
this dissertation is complemented with ethnographic elements to provide findings leading to contemporary configurations of Javanese Muslim society.

I argued that through the dances, the agents were reinforced to see and identify themselves as individualities, and eventually encouraged to uncover the religious spaces they belonged to either permanently or temporarily. Not only representing specific world religions, religious spaces mentioned here also epitomized elements such as the dance practice itself, the motivation that generated them to dance and the potency of spiritual engagement. Hence, the transcendence that they achieved was not necessarily leading to the Divinity as in Sholawatan Emprak in which the dancers claimed that the prayers as in the lyrics were expressed directly while for Ramayana and Golek Menak dancers, it varied from the points of Javanese dance philosophy “Joged Mataram”, optimalization of body when being acted or practiced, and optimal characterization or impersonation in making the characters given to the dancers “alive”.


Dewi Cahya Ambarwati

Defended in


PhD defended at

Inter-religious Study Program ICRS, Graduate School, Universitas Gadjah Mada






Art and Culture