A Dance Drama called Barong

A Dance Drama called Barong

If I am asked to choose one dance of Indonesia, Iโ€™ll probably take more time than expected. Almost all dance forms are expressive and vie for the first spot. However, for me, Barong is probably the most prominent of them all. There is a great richness of styles and eloquent drama involved. This was also the first dance performance we saw.

dances of indonesia

Barong is a story telling dance narrating the fight between good and evil. This dance is a classic example of Balinese way of enacting mythology, with myth and history being blended into one. It involves two main characters Rangda, the witch, and the great beast Barong.

rangda barong

Barong animal mask dance is considered a native Balinese dance, predating Hindu influences. I am not sure, but its origins could be from animist worship before Hinduism, when villagers still believed in the supernatural protective powers of animals. It refers to a good spirit that took form of an animal as the guardian of forest.

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In traditional Barong dance performances, Barong is portrayed as a mythical creature struggling against Rangda, the witch. Barong is a protector spirit similar to a guardian angel. He is often represented as a lion with red head, white thick fur, and wearing gilded jewelry adorned with pieces of mirrors. He is also often accompanied by two monkeys.

barong dancer

barong dancer

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feet of barong

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The masks of Barong and Rangda used in the dance performance are considered sacred items, and before they are brought out, a priest must be present to offer blessings by sprinkling them with holy water taken from Mount Agung.

The story goes that Rangda, the mother of Erlangga, the King of Bali in the tenth century, was condemned by Erlangga’s father because she practiced black magic. After she became widow, she summoned all the evil spirits in the jungle to come after Erlangga.

barong dance

The dance opens with a playful monkey teasing Barong in a peaceful environment. The monkey is fun loving and interacts with the audience also.
The next we see is a scene known as “Keris Dance” performed by male dancers, who represent soldiers of Erlangga. The Rangda character appears and wreaks havoc. A fight ensues; she and her black magic troops are too strong for Erlangga and his soldiers. He calls Barong for help.

barong dance

barong soldier

Barong comes but Rangda casts a spell upon Erlangga’s soldiers, and orders them to commit suicide. Erlanggaโ€™s soldiers go in a trance and with their own poisoned keris stab themselves on their stomachs and chests. Now it was Barongโ€™s turn to cast a protective magic on these men which makes them invulnerable to sharp objects.

barong dance

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The dance ends with the final battle between Barong and Rangda, with the victory of Barong over Rangda. Rangda runs away and the evil is defeated.

Tip: Be on time and try to get the front seats. As the dance progresses, it becomes more engaging. There are several fun moments as well.

Do you like these kind of dance dramas? Have you seen any? ๐Ÿ˜€

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52 thoughts on “A Dance Drama called Barong

  1. Beautiful ! Revived memories from Bali, though we had mostly seen Legong and missed Barong. I know that lady in the fourth photograph ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. How colorful! The pictures are beautiful.

    How you have described the story, you must have enjoyed it.

    I have not gone to Indonesia but it’s on my list now.

  3. Loved this post Barong is so similar to our Kathakali in terms of the Colorful Costumes and Head-gears and Raam-leela in terms of Story-telling ! When in Bali I am not definitely missing this lovely piece od Art.

    1. Isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚ I love those colorful costumes. They are always story oriented.

      And I haven’t seen any of those two dances.

  4. Those costumes are so colourful and with lots of details on them. It looks like a coming together of the lion dances and the Kathakali & Yakshagana. Seeing the costumes and these pictures, I wish I could hear the music and the sounds that accompany Barong.

    Do you have videos?

    1. I agree they are very colorful!

      I liked every bit of dance, costumes, narration and acting.

      I haven’t seen either Kathakali or Yakshagana. Now I think I should. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes, I think I have a video too. Will upload sometime.

      Thanks.

  5. Nice pics and story.

    We have loads of pics and videos too but none so good and the story, I never understood.

    Cheers

  6. Fascinating! I’d love to be able to see something like this. It’s so interesting that the priest offer blessings when the masks of Barong and Rangda are used.

  7. The photos are amazing and this sounds like a great production. The dancing, the story, the masks, and vibrant colors, plus the sacred aspect of it, it all adds up to one amazing experience. No wonder you are such a big fan of Barong.

    1. Ha Ha I didn’t know Barong is name of clothing. ๐Ÿ˜€ Only cloth that I know which has ‘*ong’ in its name is Sarong. ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. This is awesome! You’ve made me really excited about our trip to Indonesia.. will definitely need to experience Barong firsthand. The colors, masks and costumes are fascinating to me!

  9. This is a wonderful article!

    Your photos are fantastic and the story was new for me.

    I want to go to Indonesia now. As usual your posts are very inviting.
    Thanks.

  10. Ah! I leave for Bali in 5 days. I’m so excited and one of the things I’m looking forward to are the dances. I’ll have to see if I can find the barong being performed.

    1. Please do that. These dances are performed everyday, you have to inquire and be there on time.

      Happy journey! ๐Ÿ™‚

      And do let me know of your experience of Indonesia.

  11. Wow. This is definitely something I’d be very much interested in seeing! Look at all those expressive and enigmatic faces! Did you know barong in Tagalog is an embroidered dress shirt traditionally used in festive occasions and/or weddings.
    More power to you and your travels, Nisha

    1. Hi Trisha,

      No, I didn’t know about Barong being used in Tagalog also. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Next time when I go there, I would like to see a barong. ๐Ÿ™‚

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