In this article, Farah Savira shares a refreshing perspective on how she has helped contribute to Indonesia through performing and teaching Indonesian dances, as well as the lessons she’s learned through the way.
There is always a story behind a person’s lifelong hobbies. You can ask a person about how they started their fishing hobby and they may reply that their dad brought them fishing once. For me, my earliest memory of dancing was when my mom signed me up to a dance studio nearby my house. The opportunity to learn “Tari Piring” or “Piring Dance” from Padang, West Sumatra, was thrilling. The moments before a performance my favorite; seeing all the girls lining up with colors popping from their makeup and bright costumes while praying for their performance to succeed. My love for dancing continued to my junior and high school years, From performing the “Ngarojeng” Betawinese Dance in front of our former president, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at a diplomacy reception in Kuala Lumpur to representing Indonesia at an international folklore festival in Kavala, Greece, I learned how to be a cultural ambassador for Indonesia.
As I continued my undergraduate studies in the United States, I shifted my focus solely to my academic life and set aside the thought of pursuing my dance hobby. Until one day in 2015, a friend invited me to perform the “Lenggang Nyai” dance at an annual cultural festival organized by the UC Berkeley Indonesian Student Association (BISA), “Nusantara.” Going back to an old routine of practicing and mingling with a new dance crew gave me a sense of purpose while striving academically.
Long story short, I continued my dance journey after transferring to Indiana University (IU) in my junior year. From winning the 2nd best performance title at an international event in IU, to teaching and leading 30+ dance volunteers for an annual cultural event by PERMIAS Bloomington, “Gapura,” I am honored to be able to educate others about Indonesian culture through various dances I brought to the IU community.
Although my experience may not be specifically relevant to others, here are some valuable lessons from my dance experience in the US that anyone can benefit from:
You can always make a contribution towards Indonesia, whenever, wherever
There seems to be a stigma attached to Indonesian students who study overseas that they can only contribute towards Indonesia once they return home. Regardless of their location, students have the freedom to act upon their values. For me, I value the authenticity of my culture that is worth sharing with the world. By simply introducing Indonesian dances to the Bloomington community, I gave them a taste of Indonesia and exposure to different parts of the world without physically traveling. Promoting Indonesian culture in the United States does not always mean creating cultural events, but it’s also about exchanging insights that one cannot get from classroom or internet. Traditional dances are a collection of stories passed along generations. I feel responsible for sharing the stories that our ancestors have cherished, even through movements and music.
There should be ways to align your passion or hobby with your vision to build our nation’s future. Therefore, take a pause and start thinking about that one hobby or passion you enjoy doing.
Recruiters and employers in the United States love hearing your unique passion, so share it and be proud of it!
Before landing my current job, I encountered numerous interviews and phone screen questions about extracurricular activities I do outside the classroom. To answer the question, I usually trace back my time dedicated to serving as a Public Relations and Dance Coach for PERMIAS Bloomington. Using the STAR method, I can utilize my dance experience in response to the interview questions that emphasize qualities that employers look for in an entry-level candidate, such as leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills, as well as a fast learner and a team player. This is a sample of how I answered the question:
- Situation → During my time at PERMIAS Bloomington, a student organization run by Indonesians in Bloomington, I served as one of the two production managers for our annual cultural event, “Gapura.”
- Task → I was responsible for planning, proposing, and managing the performance aspect of the event. The head committee fully gave the other production manager and I the freedom to arrange the event rundown.
- Action → After brainstorming with the creative manager, we came up with an idea of mixing cultural and modern performances. I took an initiative to recruit, coach, and choreograph volunteers for four dance performances two months before the event day. Additionally, I liaised with two music groups to perform at our event and ensure all of the performers fit our event rundown. I also coordinated with a vendor in California to get traditional dance costumes at a low cost.
- Result → By recruiting more volunteers to perform than professional musicians or dancers, I managed to save 43% of our allocated budget for music and dance performance. The experience has allowed me to demonstrate excellent leadership skills and attention to detail by managing 50+ and training 30+ volunteers to be dance performers and gain confidence to perform.
At a glance, the experience may not be directly relevant to the job, but recruiters notice my result-oriented dedication and commitment to the student organization. By showcasing strengths and passion, you will stand out among other applicants in job interviews regardless of the industry.
Focus on one thing and do it well
Quoting the CEO and Co-Founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, I want to emphasize that everyone should focus on one strength, hobby, or talent. Growing up, I was inspired by my entrepreneur mom’s continuous commitment to growing Indonesia’s small-medium enterprises. She has always invested herself in projects or businesses that involve female entrepreneurs in small cities and villages and continues to dedicate her time and energy into the field. When you only have one thing on your mind, you devote your time, energy, and soul into it. In my case, I spent most of my junior and senior year outside campus with the Indonesian community in Bloomington. Rather than simply hanging out and joking around, I actually encouraged my peers to get outside of their comfort zone by learning traditional dances and surrounding themselves with new people in a team setting.
I initially think that I genuinely love dancing, but the expertise I possess can positively influence others. Having the experience of being a dancer since junior high school and teaching students, I have seen traditional dances of Indonesia from different lenses. It’s a great learning curve that excites me to go forward.
Everyone has their own calling. Take a step at a time, invest yourself in activities that will bring you to success, and ripe what you sow in the future.