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DANCERS & MUSICIANS OF BALI.

DANCERS & MUSICIANS OF BALI

TOWN HALL, NEW YORK CITY MARCH 12-13, 1999

In Bali I was often stirred by unfamiliar sounds: the tiny squeak of a cicak lizard stalking prey on the bedroom walls, the lament of distant roosters, water rushing in irrigation pipes, insects whirring, frogs burping, pigeons (feet ornamented with tiny brass bells) shaking metallic rain down from the sky. Under the direction of Anak Agung Gede Oka Dalem, the Dancers and Musicians of Bali brought this sonically charged atmosphere to the United States.

Before the facade of a Balinese Hindu temple, four maidens in yellow welcome us with flowers and smiles. These women, with S-curving bodies, trail their long black hair across invisible mandalas. Mesmerized by their seemingly boneless arms, I recall that the Balinese word for dancing is ngigel, which also means "to bend."

The players of the gamelan orchestra (bronze xylophones, pots, and gongs, bamboo flutes, and wooden drums) seem to be dancers in their own right, swelling in unison after great flourishes; the choreographed fury of their hammer wielding hands summons monsoons, insect swarms, and warbling birds.

Three months ago, I was in the village of Peliatan watching a similar performance of this very troupe. I stood outside in the rain and watched with the Balinese for free. Seated in New York City's Town Hall, I marveled at the sumptuous costumes, the breadth of the program, and the U.S. funding that must have gone into importing a troupe of this size (35 members). While remembering the current economic and political crises in Indonesia, I could find no sign of them in this program. Bali, with its unflagging tourist industry, has been less shaken than other parts of Indonesia. However, tourism in Bali has exacted a cultural toll by transforming the sacred dances into moneymaking shows.

In one, traditionally danced by a young boy showing the emotions of a warrior before battle, the Baris is a wide-eyed herky-jerky. Tonight's Baris of I Nyoman Sukerta has mellowed with age. His arms undulating with the suling flute, Sukerta narrows his eyes as if calculating a plan of attack. He smiles in momentary anticipation of victory as his spangled costume casts etoiles on the ceiling.

The last of the eight dances presented is Barong, the magic Calenarang drama that expresses the essence of Balinese Hinduism. This metaphysical battle between the witch Rangda and the beneficent Barong is traditionally performed inside the Temple of the Dead where the men enter into a trance, attack Rangda with daggers, then turn these daggers on themselves to attack the inner Rangda.

In general, the Dancers and Musicians of Bali show us one incarnation of Balinese dance: not sympathetic magic, instructive folktale, or temple ritual, but a beautiful commodity.
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Author:GREENHILL, JULIE
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:457
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