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  • Steve Schneider

Farah Crawford Of Putri Mandalika Indonesia Dance Club Introduces Indonesian Culture To Orlando

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

If Farah Crawford’s life has a moral, it’s that you can’t keep a dancer down. Though her personal path has taken her nearly 10,000 miles from the land of her birth in pursuit of new and exciting experiences, the recurring theme has been her determination to preserve the culture of her native Indonesia through the art form she’s loved since childhood.

Farah Crawford of the troupe Putri Mandalika Indonesia Dance Club in Orlando Florida

Born on the island of Bali to Javanese parents, Ms. Crawford spent her teen years in neighboring Lombok, where her skill at interpreting the striking and colorful dances of Indonesia began to turn some heads.


A recommendation by a high-school teacher enabled her to go pro, and within a few years, she was touring the world with her own company, performing in exotic locales like Australia and Asia. She also spent several years teaching students from elementary school on up.


That was all upended when she met a man online, agreed to marry him, and make a life with him in America. Many folks would balk at such a sweeping change, particularly if it meant putting a thriving career on ice. But her suitor certainly seemed serious, and he had gone to the trouble of traveling to Indonesia to meet her and her family – her entire family, she specifies.


“So I thought, ‘Okay, he’s a good guy,’ she says. “And now we’ve been married for 17 years.”



At first, the couple resided in St. Louis. After nearly a decade her husband was transferred by his IT company to Central Florida which they now call home. Ms. Crawford remembers being relieved to escape the cold weather of the Midwest, where opportunities to dance had been strictly seasonal. (An up-close brush with a tornado helped seal the deal.)


First as a resident of Kissimmee and now Davenport, she’s rekindled her artistic passion as co-founder and director of Putri Mandalika Indonesia Dance Club, an educational and performance operation that’s been going strong since 2016.


She holds classes and practices in her home, for a student body she describes as a blend of children of mixed-race families and Indonesian women who are keen to maintain a connection to the old country. Over the past six years, the troupe’s high-energy routines have become a fixture at events like FusionFest, Immerse, and Disney Performing Arts.

Farah Crawford of the troupe Putri Mandalika Indonesia Dance Club in Orlando Florida

“I didn’t look for the money in the beginning,” she says. “I just love to introduce my culture.” That means keeping the focus on authenticity and accuracy at all times, from the choreography all the way down to the costumes, which she herself brought from Indonesia:

“When you’re from a traditional culture, you have to do the right thing. We need to dress right as Indonesian ambassadors.”

When she isn’t teaching and performing with Putri Mandalika or raising her two sons, Ms. Crawford can be found working her day job at Disney – not as a performer, but as an assistant chef. Cooking has always been another interest of hers, and she learned a lot about American cuisine while waiting for her green card to come through. When she was first exposed to Western canned food, she recalls with a laugh, she tried to open it with a hammer and nail.


“Adaptable” is clearly a word that fits her. However, she does admit to a bit of culture shock after having been brought up among the tight-knit communities of Indonesia, where everyone on an island knows practically everyone else. The dearth of genuine Indonesian restaurants in our area, she says, doesn’t help.


Fortunately, she’s part of a group of ex-pats who maintain the same place and close contact with one another. They gather to celebrate Indonesian Independence Day, and they teach their children the traditions of home, so the old ways don’t get lost. And when an opportunity arises to impart those traditions to a new audience at something like FusionFest, her day is made.


“I love that festival so much,” she says. “Because it brings different cultures together from all around the world. I love that. FusionFest will always have a special place in my heart.”


 

This story is proudly brought to you in partnership with FusionFest. Together, FusionFest and Pedacitos believe in the power of storytelling as a way to celebrate and amplify the diverse voices within our communities. FusionFest is also the name of the incredible two-day multicultural event held in the heart of Downtown Orlando every Thanksgiving weekend.


This FREE event showcases some of the many ways culture can be displayed and shared, including through music, art, food, fashion, and more! Their mission extends beyond this once-a-year event with opportunities for the community to engage and learn through curated cultural events throughout the year.


FusionFest Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the mission to celebrate the people and the many different cultures that make Central Florida awesome by showcasing talents, sharing stories, driving innovation and building community based on respect and understanding. FusionFest is a project of the Orange County Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

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