Traditional Balinese dances are the oldest form of performing arts in Bali. Traditional dances can be divided into two types, sacred dance called Wali and entertainment dance called Bebalihan. Wali (sacred dance) is usually performed in some ritual ceremonies only because it has strong magical powers and only can be performed by specific dancers. Bebalihan are usually performed in social events. In addition to entertain, Bebalihan also has other purposes such as: welcoming guests, celebration of harvests, or gathering crowds. Bebalihan has more variations than Wali.
WALI (Sacred Dance)
The original Pendet dance is performed by 4-5 young girls (before their puberty) in temple yards. Pendet dancers bring flowers in small Bokor (silver bowls for keeping flowers in a ceremony). They spread the flowers around the temple. This dance is a symbol of welcoming God in some ritual ceremonies in Bali.
Pendet actually has simple dance movements. These movements are the basic dance movements of Balinese dance. Pendet has undergone later development with variations and now is not only performed in ritual ceremonies but also in some social events. Pendet since has been known as a welcoming dance.
Another sacred dance for welcoming God in ritual ceremonies is Rejang. Like Pendet, Rejang is also strictly performed by females. The number of Rejang dancers is more than Pendet, over 10 dancers. Rejang dancers make long lines which surrounds the temple. The leader brings holy water called Tirtha which is spread around for purifying the temple. Depending on the cloth used by the dancer, Rejang can be divided into: Rejang Oyopadi, Rejang Galuh, and Rejang Dewa. Rejang can only be found performing in some ritual ceremonies in Bali.
Sanghyang dance is an inherited form from pre-Hindu culture which is still preserved in some places in Bali. This dance is believed to be potent of curing illnesses. The dancer has the ability to communicate with divine natural powers; performed by male and female trance dancers. This dance is accompanied by a song called Gending Shangyang, and in Sukawati this dance is also accompanied by the traditional Balinese instruments. Gending Sanghyang is believed to summon the powers of nature.
There are three steps in this dance, called Nusdus, Masolah, and Ngelinggihang. Nusdus is the first step in Sanghynag dance. In this step, the dancer’s soul is cleared by using holy smoke so they can communicate with the powers of nature. The second step is called Masolah. This step is when the powers have entered the dancer’s body. The dancer will move naturally in trance. The closing step is called Ngelinggihang. In this step, the natural powers have left the dancer’s body and the priest sprinkles holy water on the dancer. There are six types of Sanghyang dances, they are: Sanghyang Dedari, Sanghyang Deling, Sanghyang Bojog, Sanghyang Sampat, Sanghyang Celeng, and Sanghyang Jaran.
Tari Topeng (Mask Dance)
Originally Tari Topeng / Mask Dances in Bali are sacred, even at this time the creativity of Balinese dancers has developed Mask Dance to entertain as well. The sacred Mask Dances are usually performed by a single dancer or a group of male dancers in large ceremonies. They have a purpose for telling viewers about the historical background of why a ceremony must be held or to deliver Hinduism wisdom through simple conversation among dancers. It is also believed that it can protect a ceremony from evil interferences. The famous sacred Mask Dance is Topeng Pajegan.
Topeng Pajegan was based on a legend about an old priest named Sidhakarya. Sidhakarya actually is the brother of the king of the Gelgel kingdom who hailed from Java. He was chased away by the king of Gelgel (kingdom located in district of Klungkung) without clear reason. Before he left Klungkung, he cursed the king that every ritual ceremony proposed by the king will not run well. It became true. Finally the king realized his mistake and tried to apologize. For respecting the priest and neutralizing the curse, a mask dance must be performed before a ceremony is started, the Topeng Pajegan. So that is why Topeng Pajegan is always performed prior a big ceremony.
Topeng Pajegan is only performed by male dancers who use some masks. The main mask is called Sidhakarya. This dance tells us about Sidhakarya’s journey to Bali until he met the king and was chased away. Balinese people believe that the mask is the same as the Sidhakarya priest’s face. This dance is also believed to cure illnesses.
Legong is one classic dance which is brought to stage by two girls employing similar dresses and movements. Legong that highlights divine dance movements and special costumes has been one famous icon of Bali’s art in the world.
Legong dance is a very classical entertainment and welcoming dance. The name was taken from the word leg meaning ‘beautiful movements’ and Gong meaning melodious sound from the traditional Balinese music instruments. Therefore, Legong means beautiful movements accompanied by instruments. This dance is one of the most difficult dances to learn because it has very complex movements and the dancer should have sensitivity to Gong sounds.
Legong dance is performed by female dancers, usually consisting of three dancers. Legong dancers wear luxurious costumes. They are accompanied by special Gong called Gamelan Semar Pagulingan. Gamelan Semar Pagulingan is smaller than the other traditional instruments and has specific sounds.
The development of Legong dance made way to some new dances which have the same basic movements plus different variations of movement, such as: Andir/ Nandir (district of Tabanan) or Sahyang Legong (Ketewel village located in the district of Gianyar). The famous one is Legong Keraton. This dance is often performed to greet special guests who come to Bali.
BEBALIHAN (Entertainment Dance)
Creativity of Balinese artists makes the development of Bebalihan in Bali to never cease. Many new Bebalihan are created yearly or even monthly. These dances are categorized as Kontemporer or contemporary dance and usually performed in social events. Below are some classic Bebalihan usually performed in local or international events.
The name of Baris was taken from Balinese word Bebaris which means groups of soldiers. This dance describes Balinese soldiers in the warring arena. The dancers hold weapons, such as: Tumbak (spear), Keris (dagger), etc. for supporting their soldier characters. Baris dance is performed by 8-40 male dancers. According to the different weapons, clothes and accessories, Baris has variations, such as Baris Tumbak, Baris Panah, Baris Tamiyang, Baris Bedil, Baris Jangkang, etc. This dance is often performed in many social events in Bali. Baris Gede is only performed in ceremonies. This dance is performed by a boy (before puberty). Baris Gede belongs to sacred dance and has purposes like Rejang.
Barong (symbol of good faith) comes into war with rangda (a symbol of evil). The dance also performs a few people who are in trance and bring with them traditional weapon, keris. In the great battle where the Barong wins, the ending of the performance is marked by a priest giving out the holy water.
Barong looks like a big puppet moved by 1-2 people. Barong was born by mixing Balinese and Chinese culture from around the 11th century. The shape not too different from the Chinese Barong Sai, the Balinese Barong mostly takes animal shapes, such as: Barong Ket (lion), Barong Macan (tiger), Barong Bangkung (pig), etc.
In development times of the Barong in Bali, it is performed as a dance which mostly takes its plot from Hindu legend in Java called Calonarang. This dance is symbol of the balancing positive and negative powers called Rwa Bhineda. Barong dance looks like a drama but without conversation and has two main characters; Barong Ket (symbol of positive power) and Rangda (symbol of negative power).
The main point of Calonarang is a battle between a priest and his student against a queen, who has evil powers, and her soldiers. The priest changes himself into a Barong Ket to battle against the queen who changes herself to be a monster called Rangda. Some characters in Barong dances use masks. These masks are believed to have spirits and usually get an offering by the dancer before the show starts. You will see dancers in trance in this dance, especially when the students of the Barong attack Rangda by their unsheathed keris. The amazing fact is that the dancers do not bear marks and are unwounded.
Belibis is another welcoming dance. It is performed by 5 or more girls in beautiful costumes. The movements are adopted from swan movements, thus it is also known as the Swan dance.
Gebug Ende Dance
Gebug Ende is from the district of Karangasem. This dance is performed by 2-16 male dancers. Every dancer wields a shield, made from rattan, called Ende and a rattan stick. They dance while hitting the Ende (shields) of the other dancer by rattan sticks. Gebug Ende means ‘hitting the Ende’.
The dance is quite unique as it has certain rules that have to be followed by the participants. Led by a referee, this dance starts with two dancers, while the rest sit in a circle, cracking jokes and singing, while waiting their turns. The jury decides which of the two contestants loses the game and has to leave the stage. Then they will call the next men to the stage. This continues until all have had a turn. Sometimes the fight becomes very fierce and the dancers get thrown off the stage from the blows of the rattan sticks. Bruises and wounds are common.
A long time ago, Gebug Ende was performed to call for rain. Now this dance has become a very unique entertainment not only for locals, but also foreigners.
Ghopala has the purpose of thanking God for a good harvest. It is usually performed by 5 or more couples in the harvesting month. The male dancers will take place first and after some minutes followed by female dancers. Ghopala dance movements are very unique, relaxed, and funny. At this time Ghopala has become one of the favorite entertainment dances in Bali and is often performed in social events.
Janger dance is an entertainment dance performed by the Balinese youth. It tightens relationship among them. Janger is performed by couples in social events, such as: wedding parties, celebrations of harvest, etc. Dancers not only dance but also sing. It is accompanied by melodious music instruments called Batel / Tetamburan which makes for a very merry scene. Every place in Bali has their own style of the dance which makes it different among them.
The name is taken from the bamboo instrument which accompanies the dance called Jegog. Jegog comes from district of Jembrana. Jegog is performed by a female dancer and accompanied by the sounds of a Jegog (a bamboo instrument). The beautiful movement and melodious instruments make this dance performed not only in social events around Jembrana, but also in other places in Bali, such as Denpasar, Klungkung, and Gianyar.
Joged is among the favorites, where one or more female dancers are accompanied by bamboo instruments. Unlike Jegog which is performed by female dancers from the beginning until the end of the performance, joged dancers usually invite male audiences as their partner even they are not dancers. Do not be worried when you are chosen by the dancer because you have not to be an expert to accompany their moves.
Accapella’s music accompanies the dynamic movement of Kecak’s dancers.
Kecak Dance has been regarded as a fantastic performance in Bali since a long time ago, not only by Indonesians but also many people around the world. Kecak is performed by a group of male dancers and usually performed in the evening. Kecak dancers sit on the ground surrounding a big torch while singing. They sing as though Balinese instrument sounds and are not accompanied by any music instruments whatsoever. The movements only use the hands and head.
Kecak was performed for the first time in 1930 as an entertaining pastime dance among Balinese males. At that time, Kecak were only played in small celebrations such as during the harvest month or village anniversary.
The development of drama in Bali, especially Sendratari, brought a changed to this dance. Kecak and Janger dances started to enter Sendratari’s scene which mostly performs classical stories such as Ramayana and Mahabratha. It is now usually performed regularly at Tanah Lot (in the Tabanan district) and Batubulan (Gianyar district). Kecak dance is also performed in many national and international events held in Bali.
Mekare-Karean/ Pandan War
Makare-karean is also known as Pandan War. It is a combination between dance and ritual. It is performed in Tenganan village only (a traditional village in district of Karangasem) during the village temple anniversary. This old tradition has the purpose for invoking bravery among male youth of Tenganan and respecting the temple God.
Mekare-karean is performed by male dancers using thorny pandanu leaves and rattan shields as their main gear. Before performing, the dancers undergo some ritual to ensure they will be all right during the show. The show is started by the groups of young men surrounding the dance arena where an older man as an umpire is ready. Then, two young men, who bring the thorny leafs and rattan shields, take stance in the arena. Next, they attack one another. There is no winner or loser in this battle. The umpire will stop the action when the one’s body has bled. This process is continued until all dancers have got the chance.
Even though they bleed, they never feel hurt. They will be healed by traditional medicine made from turmeric. The medicine is usually prepared by the females. If you want to see this dance, you must go to Tenganan village around the months of June-July.
Mresi is another dance which comes from the Tenganan village. This dance is performed by male dancers who have not married yet. Mresi dance is believed to help the dancer find his soul mate. The dancer brings Keris (dagger) as symbol of courage and power. Mresi is accompanied by special instruments called Gamelan Selonding. The combination of dance movements, Keris, and sounds of Gamelan Selonding make this dance look masculine.
Oleg Tambulilingan Dance
Oleg Tambulilingan is an entertainment dance created by Balinese artist Mario in 1952. This dance is one of the couple dances which have very beautiful movements. Oleg Tambulilingan was inspired by a couple of bumblebees flirting in a flower garden. Tambulilingan means bumblebee in English.
The show is started with a female dancer in beautiful costume entering the stage. After several minutes, the male dancer enters. This dance has a long duration and is accompanied by melodious sounds of the Gamelan. Oleg Tambulilingan is often performed in formal events in Bali.
Puspanjali was created in 1989 by two Balinese dancers; Swasthi Wijaya and I Nyoman Windha. Puspanjali is one of the welcoming dances which has dynamic and beautiful movements. The name Puspanjali was taken from the word Puspa meaning flower and Anjali meaning respecting or greeting. Thus, Puspanjali means ‘greeting with flowers’. This dance is performed by 5-7 female dancers. The dancers bring flowers in Bokor or flower garlands which will be given to the guests in the end of the dance sequence. If you are invited in some events in Bali you may be able to see this dance.
Arja at many sections of it is more like an opera. The drama whose dialogue exerts macapat style is projected to be on stage since 1820. Arja used to stage the famous story of Panji, but today’s show begins to include the folklores, like Ramayana and Mahabarata. The interesting part of Arja show is that it is very communicative show with some humorous dialogues during its performance.