Festival of Summer Voices

Acehnese Sitting-Song Dances

Sitting body percussion dances from Aceh. These dances encompass intricate pattern making with your hands accompanied by traditional devotional songs. Rhythms are made through clapping, hitting the upper body, legs and voice. The movements are communal, fun and rhythmically satisfying. Individuals feel like they belong within a group and through shared action the group feels like a community, creating self-esteem and confidence.


Suara Indonesia Dance was established in 2001, a Sydney-based Indonesian dance company specialising in Acehnese body percussion. Today, the group presents an energetic mix of dance, body percussion and song unparalleled by any other performance group in Australia. With a blend of traditional and contemporary influences from their Indonesian heritage and Australian upbringing, Suara Indonesia Dance brings liveliness, originality and all-engaging performances to the stage.

The workshops will be led by Murtala and Alfira, Choreographer and Artistic Director of Suara Indonesia Dance.

Murtala is a dance practitioner and scholar from Banda Aceh who has trained extensively with traditional teachers from a young age. Murtala continued his dance training at the Institute of the Arts in Padang-Panjang West Sumatra, returning to Aceh after the 2004 tsunami. He built a local NGO with fellow dance artists in Banda Aceh to teach traditional Acehnese dance and music to children affected by the tsunami and conflict. In Australia, Murtala is the Choreographer for Suara Indonesia Dance.

Alfira, born in Perth of Acehnese-Irish descent, is a dance artist who specialises in traditional and contemporary Indonesian dance styles. Her educational repertoire includes studying at the Institute of the Arts Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Central Java). In Aceh (North Sumatra) she researched and trained under master instructors in Acehnese sitting dances which are rhythmical body percussion dances, accompanied by devotional melodic songs. She holds a degree in International Studies (UNSW ) and an Honours in Indonesian Studies at Sydney University, completing a thesis on the history and significance of Acehnese body percussion sitting dances. Together, their expertise in teaching and performing these dances has led them to tour extensively around Australia, Europe and Asia.