DANCECRUSH SPOTLIGHT: HENDRI WALUJO

Posted by

Dressed in a bright red beanie and matching cardigan, Hendri Walujo sits in his Seattle home, ready for our virtual chat. It is endearing how much of his spirit is still prevalent over Zoom, in both his vibrant outfit and calm but cheerful demeanor. Walujo is a performer I am always pleasantly surprised by, whether he is spinning with playful hand gestures on a live streamed stage with Kinesis Project, or suddenly transitioning from a subdued attitude to over-the-top facial expressions with Jessica Jobaris & General Magic. When I see him, even when I am amongst a crowd of tourists at a hectic Seattle pier, I can feel his connection to the audience and tangible desire to make an impression on me. This is a rare performance quality—the consistent ability to capture audience attention in a personal and inviting way. I never know what he’s going to do next, but I’m sure it will charm me in one way or another.

This Land Is Your Land – Mark Haim – 2010-2014 – photo by Tim Summers

Walujo is the recipient of a 2020 DanceCrush award, recognized for his work as a dancer in Seattle since 2002. He has worked for a variety of choreographers and companies including Mark Haim, Lucia Neare(‘s Theatrical Wonders), KT Niehoff, Jessica Jobaris (& General Magic), Ellie Sandstrom, Kristin Hapke, Carla Barragan/BQdanza, Vanessa DeWolf, Stephanie Liapis, Jurg Koch, and Gender Tender. Walujo has performed on stages, boats, sidewalks, museums, warehourses, and more recently, from his living room window. 

Walujo dabbled in performance growing up, attending after-school classes in high school where students learned and performed traditional dances of Indonesia. He was later reconnected with dance at University of North Texas out of a simple graduation necessity. Walujo explains:

“I needed a four hour credit for PE. And I did not want to do any of, you know, like football… So they said ‘Oh you can take dance classes, that’s a PE credit.’ So I’m like, ‘Okay. I’m always curious about modern dance.’ I was thinking modern dance as like Janet Jackson on MTV, doing all the moves and stuff.”

The Great Hunger – Jessica Jobaris & general magic – 2015-2017 – photo by Jens Wazel

While the modern Walujo expected certainly wasn’t what he found, he stuck around and enjoyed it anyway. He began taking ballet, and eventually his ballet teacher invited Walujo to her office hours. She told him that he’s talented, and could pursue dance professionally even if it wasn’t what he wanted as a main career. These comments surprised Walujo, but led him to keep taking classes and perform once in college.

After graduation Walujo took an office job, but noticed something was missing a couple years into it. He recalls, “What am I doing after work? I don’t have anything to do, I just sit and watch TV. So I decided that one thing I would enjoy was taking dance classes.”

While continuing his career as a software programmer, Walujo began taking dance classes at  Brookhaven Community College in Dallas, making connections that led to performance invitations and eventually joining a small dance company. Seattle enticed him (at the time with its delightful summer weather) after visiting friends that had relocated from Dallas. When he arrived, he began taking classes at Velocity Dance Center, where he appreciated the challenges of different styles available. After attending a Strictly Seattle Festival a year after arrival, he dove head first into the Seattle dance scene, seeking more performance opportunities. 

Blue House Seattle – Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders – 2012 – photo by Michael Doucett

Walujo craves an assortment of performance work. “My interest has always been variety for myself. I’ll take on different roles, different styles of performances just to see if I fit in or how I work with other people within it.” 

Movement style, setting, and even potential obstacles pique his interest. Walujo continues, “I just like to perform! And all the different aspects. Taking the challenge of, okay, now we’re going to perform outside in 90 degree heat with costumes and random people walking around. Okay, I’ll take on that because it’s a challenge. Then, oh I’ll do an improvisational score with ten people, not knowing anything that’s there. I enjoy that too. Being able to express myself freely with certain boundaries. Or, very specifically movement-wise, like when I performed for A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, which was [by] KT Niehoff, where we had set choreography that we perform precisely… it’s all encompassing for me, I think.”

A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light – KT Niehoff – 2010&2015 – photo by Tim Summers

The way in which Walujo finds performance opportunities contains as much variety as the projects themselves. Sometimes it’s through taking classes of choreographers he’s interested in working with and inviting them to his shows. Sometimes he attends auditions if he’s curious about the project, and what he could learn from it and bring to it. Most often, however, he attributes new opportunities to his relationship with others. Walujo is frequently invited to dance for artists he’s collaborated with in other processes. 

In terms of his approach to performance, Walujo tries to honor the unique intentions of each work, and prepares differently depending on each process. For live streamed performances, Walujo focuses on the camera as representative of the audience by “taking the lens instead of the eye of someone, there’s many eyes behind it.” He is also quick to embrace what the performance becomes. When asked about his living room performance for LanDforms’ drive-in show Cooped Up, he speaks of the loneliness created by the distance between himself and the cars, and the inability to see audience faces. 

“That was the lonely experience, but then, you know, once I knew what it was it’s like okay, I’ll just take it on. This is a lonely performance, and I’m fine with that. This is a dance for myself, knowing that people are watching.”

In Our Wake – Kinesis Project – 2019 – photo by Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times

One constant for him throughout every performance approach is his desire to be present. “It’s a hard thing to do, to be present in the performance at the time. But having all that experience of performing, of improvising and dealing with either the crowd or technical problems helps me be present in each show.” Walujo talks about Kinesis Project as an example, a group that frequently performs in populated public spaces, and most recently, over a livestream that included dancers from two coasts. These performances come with in-the-moment decisions that dancers must make to adapt to unpredictable audience members and, a reality in our current digital world, technical issues. Walujo is always up for the challenge, allowing these obstacles to keep him focused on the now. “I think that’s what’s exciting about performing, being present.”