A Dance Drama called Barong
If I am asked to choose one dance of Bali, Ubud Indonesia, I’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 comes but Rangda casts a spell upon Erlangga’s soldiers, and orders them to commit suicide. Erlangga’s soldiers go in a trance and with their own poisoned keris stab themselves on their stomachs and chests. Now it was Barong’s turn to cast a protective magic on these men which makes them invulnerable to sharp objects.
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? 😀
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