Ery Mefri
( Founder & Leader Nan Jombang Dance Company)

Ery Mefri (Founder & Leader Nan Jombang Dance Company)

Ery Mefri was born on June 23, 1958 in Saniangbaka, Solok, West Sumatera. His first choreography was born 27 years later in 1983 – a dance that he called “Nan Jombang” – whose title then became the name of a dance company he established and lead up until today.

His journey was triggered by the passion to express himself by combining his own potentials with the Minangkabau culture and traditions – in which he believes to hold endless possibilities and interpretations. The idea was simple to create a new design of choreography that spiritually, instead of just stylistically, roots in tradition. A challenge a mission – that was posed against his thoughts and mind as a choreographer.

Ery Mefri was born into a family of artists with substantial perception and application of Minangkabau culture. His father, Jamin Manti Jo Sutan, was known as a performer with strong traditional roots, while his mother, Nurjanah, was a gold yarn weaver. The story started when Ery was 3 years old, when twice in a week he would sit on his father’s lap and watch the traditional Tari Piring (plate-dancing) dancers.

He would watch and listen to the music that his father played during practices. By the time he was 5 years old, Ery was dancing Tari Piring on his own at a Baralek (wedding celebration) even though he was never formally taught. Being raised by parents who were appreciative of traditional arts, and growing up surrounded by Minangkabau culture and traditions proved to be significant to Ery’s journey as a contemporary choreographer. They are what constantly inspire him to create new art.

Ery Mefri’s contemporary dance numbers are always attached to his Minangkabau cultural roots. In each one, Minangkabau traditions evolved into a spirit that moves the dance itself. The philosophy, “alam takambang jadi guru,” or “nature becomes the teacher,” is paired with technique, resulted in synchronized values – a harmony that is achieved through creating and being a choreographer. It is as important as asking questions, studying the existence of the modern, and the traditional aspects of a body of work.

For Ery, the more modern the shape of a dance is, the bigger is the opportunity to look at the traditional roots. These aspects are not meant to destroy each other. Rather, they are to meet and enrich one another. To conceptualize a dance, a choreographer needs a high amount of awareness in observing daily life and the ability to interpret ‘tradition’. Ery’s specific view on both becomes the base of his choreography. He makes the everyday, ordinary human movements flow and flow, until they become “soundless”.

While he cites Minangkabau tradition as the source of evolution and innovation of his art, he believes that the natural human movement is the core of his identity as a contemporary artist. Music to him is like the breathe that he released through his dancers; therefore, he makes sure that in every piece of production the music is reduced to a minimal point. Because to him, “a scream of pain cannot be voiced by anybody else but ourselves.”

Founded in 1983 by Artistic Director Ery Mefri, Nan Jombang Dance is Indonesia’s leading contemporary dance company. Based in Padang, West Sumatra, Nan Jombang Dance is rooted in Minangkabau (West Sumatra, Indonesia) traditions of martial arts, dance and percussion. The company strives to preserve local tradition alongside contemporary practice.
Nan Jombang Dance uphold endurance, rigorous discipline and integrity not only on stage and in the rehearsal room but as core philosophies that have steered the company through numerous hardships including the 2009 Padang earthquake that destroyed their rehearsal space and claimed the lives of over 1000 people, injuring a further 3000. With the first international tour in 2004, Nan Jombang have steadily developed into an internationally renowned contemporary company with a thriving choreographic centre and theatre venue, Ladang Tari on the edge of Padang, Sumatra.
The company operates as both an international dance company with a significant body of work and also as a pivotal facilitator of community programs, including mentoring, classes and local and international festivals. The company plays an invaluable role within the West Sumatran community and the landscape of contemporary Indonesian performing arts.