|.Music, Dance and Drama are all closely related in Bali, in fact drama and
dance are synonymous. The most important thing about Balinese dances, however,
is that they're fun and accessible. Balinese dances are not hard to find;
there are dances virtually every night at all the tourist centers.
The Legong Keraton
The Legong Dance proper is the epitome of
classical female Balinese Dancing. A court dance, it was created in the 18th
century in the circle of the principality of Sukawati. Any good dancer of the
Legong will be able to pick up without the difficulty all the modern "Free
Creation" (Tari Lepas). The Legong is usually the first dance taught to
beginner. Months of training is needed to master the perfect mix of posture
(Tangkep), movements (Ageng - with dancing hands), and mimicry. Highly dynamic,
The Legong dance is usually performs by three dancers in glittering costumes,
one Condong Lady - in - waiting and two princesses whose role may change
according to the narrative. Ancient Legongs were a companied by a story teller,
but now it has become dance only performance.
The gambuh is the oldest classical dance of Bali. It is thought to
have been introduced to Bali with the Javanese classical Majapahit culture. A
dance moving mostly at a hauntingly slow tempo, the Gambuh Drama tells episodes
of the story of Panji's search for his lost beloved across the kingdoms of
eastern Java. Preserved in a few villages, and in particular in Batuan and
Pedungan, the Gambuh combines the best of female and male Balinese dances,
another of its particularities is the use of long Bamboo flutes, instead of the
complete set of Gamelans and Gongs.
The mask dance is performed to tell the stories of Balinese
and Javanese ancestors, who descend to inhabit the mask. Nowadays, the stories
proper, with their princes and clowns, are preceded by a set of solo mask
dances, which are the best of Balinese male dances : the "Topeng Keras" or dance
of the "strong warrior". the "Topeng Tua", a fantastic dance showing the advance
of old age in the king's old counselor, the "Topeng Dalem" or king in all his
poise and balance, and an array of clowns worth those of the Comedia Del
These dances are performed as a welcome to the visiting gods,
who are presented with offerings of flowers. Nowadays, the showering of flowers
is also addressed to tourists.
The renewal of the arts of the thirties saw a surge in dance
creativity which produced dances which are still the most popular of Bali :
swift, glittering, short non-narrative dances inspired by the dynamism of the
Gong Kebyar, a new gamelan orchestra originating in northern Bali.
The Joged Bumbung is one of the few, exclusively secular dances of
Bali, during which the flashy-dressed joged dancer invites men from the crowd to
dance with her in a pretence of seduction. The music is made with Bumbung bamboo
instruments. This is a dance highly popular with tourist groups.
Shadow Puppet Show
The Wayang puppet show is perhaps the most famous show
of the whole Balinese theatre, albeit the most difficult to understand.
Basically narrative, it is the door to Bali's unique world of myths, symbols and
religious beliefs. The puppet master, or Dalang, tells his story by projecting
on a white screen, the shadows of the puppets he manipulates in front of a big
oil lamp. He plays several characters at once, shifting from Old-Javanese to
High- and Low-Balinese, singing and hitting his puppet box to mark the rhythm.
He must be successively learned, funny and sad. A one-man-show.
Balinese music is based around an instrument known as the gamelan. The
gamelan is such a central part of Balinese music that the whole 'orchestra' is
also referred to as a gamelan. Gamelan music is almost completely percussion.
Though it sounds strange at first with its noisy, jangly percussion it's
exciting and enjoyable.