In the early 20th century, there was a movement to catalog and standardize court dance. This was paralleled, in the anti-colonial nationalist movement, by the recognition of the value of classical dance and dance-drama and its contribution to Indonesian culture. Tari kursus comes from that time. Tari Kursus is a series of solo compositions for men. It is derived primarily from tari tayub or tayuban, a style of social dance popular at the turn of the century that was a variation of the folk dance form, ketuk tilu.
The term tari kursus is relatively new. It appeared after the adoption of Bahasa Indonesia as a national language. Even today, the older generation uses the name ibing keurseus. Ibing means dance and keurseus is how the Sundanese say kursus or learning. The word keurseus is directly related to the period in the 1920’s when the form was first created. As noted above, this was a time when people -- especially in Bandung -- were very interested in creative dance derived from traditional sources as an expression of national identity . People wanted to intensively study dance and used the Dutch word for a course of study, kursus. Later the form was called ibing patokan or standards dance, because in tari kursus there is a set choreography with standards or guidelines for proper movements, whereas in the folkloric style, tari tayub, there were no such guidelines.
Tari kursus is accompanied by a full gamelan, either the 7-tone gamelan pelog or the 5-tone gamelan salendro. The music is similar to that played for tayub as well as for kliningan and wayang. Tari kursus was originally performed by aristocrats, intellectuals, and elite government officials (mayors, regents, district heads and so on). Unlike tayub, which was performed in private homes, it was often performed in public, in the city center.
Tari kursus is specialized in its style and technique. Its themes and choreography reflect general types or stages of human character. In one performance, all these types can be performed at once or the performance can be limited to just one character type. The names of the character types are:
- Liyep (or Lenyep) -- gentle or refined
- Lanyap -- agile, lively or frisky
- Gagah -- rough or strong; soldiers often possess this character type
The performance can also be divided based on the tempo of the accompanying music:
- Gunung Sari
Today there is little interest in the further social development of tari kursus, although it is taught in the formal dance institutes. However, it has had a great influence on today’s creative dances.