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Devi Dja Dies; Directed Asian Dance Troupes

January 24, 1989

Devi Dja, considered one of the world's foremost authorities on Indonesian dancing and whose groups had appeared in and around Southern California since before World War II, died Thursday in a Northridge hospital. She was 74 and died of cancer.

Mrs. Dja, whose troupes featured dances and costumes from India, China, Japan and Micronesia, in addition to Indonesia, was discovered by conductor Leopold Stokowski when he visited Bali in 1930. She had come from a theatrical tradition and had been performing publicly since she was a girl. (Her father had taken her to Bali to study the intricate temple dances there when she was only 6.) Stokowski urged the young dancer to come to this country, which she did in the late 1930s.

By the time World War II intervened, she had established a company of 200 dancers and was readying a European tour. Although kept in this country by the war, she staged a series of performances there that aided various European nations overrun by the Nazis.

Over the years she and her dancers performed at the old Belasco Theater, the Wilshire Ebell Theater, the Assistance League Playhouse and community centers throughout the Southland.

In 1954, Devi Dja (whose name translates roughly to Sun Eternal) was credited with being the first Indonesian woman ever to become a naturalized citizen, a role she took as seriously as her dancing, said her goddaughter, Vicky McCarty.

A widow who kept at her dancing until her health failed, Mrs. Dja is survived by a daughter, Ratna, and three grandchildren. Services are scheduled at 11:30 today at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

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