Indonesia and the Balinese Dance

The tourist capital of Indonesia is, of course, Bali and many tourists have been fascinated by Balinese dance, the ancient dance tradition that is a part of the religious and artistic expression among the Balinese people.  Balinese dance is amazing!  It’s dynamic and extremely expressive. Here are some fascinating facts about Balinese dance:

  • It’s very dramatic and dancers use angular body gestures together with fingers, hands, head and eyes movement.
  • Some of the dances are ritualistic dance dramas which involve Rangda, the witch and the beast Barong.
  • Most of dances in Bali are connected to Hindu rituals, such as the Sanghyang Dedari sacred dance than invoked Hyang spirits that is believed to turn the dancers into a trance during the performance.
  • Training as a Balinese dance starts as young as 7 – and often even younger in a more relaxed way as children can learn the craft from their mothers as soon as they are born!
  • In the womb future dancers are played Balinese music and are taught to dance with their hands before they can walk!

Balinese dance has 3 genders: Male, female, and in-between. These are devised by “Agem” (Basic posture).

  • Male dance Agem : Put right and left feet about 2 feet apart. Your body has to be straight and erect. Keep your shoulders and arms up as high as your ears.
  • Female dance Agem: Put right and left feet about 1 fist apart. Your back has to make an arch. This arch is called “chunked”. Keep your arms up as high as your shoulders.
 
A group of Female Balinese Dancers, Indonesia
  • In-between dance Agem: Put right and left feet about 1 and half feet long apart. Your body has to be straight and up. Keep your arms up higher than your shoulders.
  • Most dances are accompanied by a Balinese orchestra called “gamelan” – the most common one consists of 25– 35 people. There are xylophone-like instruments, gongs, and percussion instruments resembling cymbals, flutes and drums.  Balinese dance and music are very closely connected – the dance movements are often related to drum sounds.
 
Balinese Gamelan Orchestra
  • Each dance piece has different costumes and make-up. These depend on the gender and the character of the piece.
  • Most female and in-between dancers put on various colours of make-up. They wear a crown or put both real and golden flowers in their hair. They wear sarongs and wrap a long sash from their hips to their breasts as well as several gold decorations.
  • Male dancers also put on make-up. They use more red colour for their eyes and cheeks and their eyebrows are coloured-in to enhance their masculinity. They wear a crown and put on a cloak. They carry a sword on their shoulders and also wear masks.
 

Male Balinese Dancer wearing a Crown
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