Magelang’s Prof dr Soerojo Mental Hospital to Use Traditional Dance as Therapy for Patients

Psychiatric patients

Psychiatric patients of Magelang’s Prof dr Soerojo Mental Hospital wearing Javanese contemporary dance uniform.

By Sahrudin –

How to deal with a cranky patient, while at the same time paying attention to others are practicing a dance? Can they be so serious?

QUESTIONS I hear too often,” said Eko Sunyoto, a traditional dance teacher at “Saras Jiwo”, a dancing studio in Prof dr Soerojo Mental Hospital, Magelang, Central Java.

The questions frequently arise as to the difficulties in teaching dance for people with mental illness in the studio. “Saras Jiwo” are Javanese words, which literally mean mental health.

Answering such questions, Eko, who has been teaching traditional, especially Javanese dance for many years, said, he choose to call them challenges instead of problems.

“They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Knowing they can dance, they can follow my feet and hands movement, I am pretty satisfied, as sometimes I feel that I have overdone it,” said Eko.

Penthul Tembem dance

Eko Sunyoto, left, accompanying patients of Prof dr Soerojo Mental Hospital to dance “penthul tembem” (chubby mask), in Magelang, Central Java.

A patient of Prof dr Soerojo Mental Hospital usually undergo treatment for an average of 35 days.

Each patient will require treatment phases from the acute and subacute care; maintenance and last phase rehabilitation, before they recover and sent home.

Traditional dance will be given as therapy for the patients entering rehabilitation phase.

“Traditional dance comes in many, many forms and we teach them several. We, of course, won’t teach the patients a dance with difficult moves like the classic-Javanese. It’s too difficult even for the normal,” he added.

When teaching dance Eko noticed that what the mental patients need were first and foremost to express their emotions and is not the technique.

Therefore, he only teaches easy traditional dance like the jathilan, penthul (mask dance) and some other simple dance.

“We even still need to customize the dance so much easier,” said the 43-year-old, who also teaches dance to dozens of teenagers at his home in “artists area” Borobudur District.

To learn and practice a dance, he added, the patients need only less than a week. A team of jathilan dance consists of between 6 to 8 patients with the performance length about 30 minutes.

Jathilan dance

Using horse-like-woven-bamboo, people with mental illness to dance “jathilan”. The mental hospital to use traditional dance as therapy for the patients.

Saras Jiwo dance studio have so far performed in various cities in Java, like Yogyakarta, Malang, Surakarta and Jakarta. Patients of Prof dr Soerojo Mental Hospital also regularly participate in annual Sport and Art Competition for the Mental Disabled Rehabilitant (Porkesremen).

“We often take home the prize!” he proudly said.

Sri Haryanti, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Head of Prof dr Soerojo Mental Hospital, said, dance therapy are known to be particularly beneficial for patients.

Dance therapy has a part to play in the treatment of psychological and mental health problems.

“Dancing may be a way to tone the body, but it is also a dynamic way to exercise the mind,” Haryanti said.

In Saras Jiwo, she added, patients will also be invited to make costumes, try out movements and put together their own performances.

Beside dancing, patients of rehabilitation phase at the mental hospital also have more choice in undergoing their therapy, ranging from painting and making batik, Javanese karawitan orchestra, sports to crafts-making therapy.***

Story and images by Sahrudin


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