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The Folk Dances

Like most of the performing arts of the Orient dance in Indonesia is believed by many scholars to have had its beginning in religious workship. Even today, many dances are considered sacred or can be traced back to their early spiritual associations. Among these are not only the temple dances of Bali, but also such seemingly profane dances, such as the Bedoyo Ketawang of Solo, performed only on such rare occasions that they are in peril of becoming lost for the lack of younger generation dancers able to perform them.
Dance traditions today are as widely diverse as the various ethnic cultures of which they are part. Nurtured to refined perfection in the royal Javanese courts and princely homes the classical dances of Central Java are highly stylized expressions which have probably already attained their basic movements during the height of the Hindu-Javanese culture from the 8th to the 13th century. From the courts, those dances eventually reached the broad strata of the common people who gave them a more spontaneous form of expression.

In the hands of the people, these dances provided a rich source not only for popular dance dramas, but also for social dances which often display clear erotic overtones, such as Tayuban or Ngibing.
The bumbung dance of Bali which incidentally evolved into the beautiful "bumblebee dance" and Tamulilingan, a creation of Bali's late famed maestro of the dance, I Mario.
Other popular folk dances still display strong magic associations, as for instance the "kuda lumping horse dance". Whereas rigid discipline and artistry mark the dance of Java and Bali, those of Sumatra, Maluku and most of the other islands (one exception is the Gending Sriwijaya of South Sumatra) are characterized by their gracefulness and charm, a distinction which is further accentuated by the entirely different, non- gamelan, musical accompaniment.
The old traditions of dance and drama are being preserved in the many dance schools which flourish not only in the courts but also in the modern, government-run or supervised art academies where at the same time the search is continually being conducted for new expressions better adapted to modern times though based on the old traditions.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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For comparative study or for enjoyment, the introduction of serious western art forms is also being encouraged through performances sponsored by private organizations or foreign missions as well as by government supervised institutions such as Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) Art Centre in Jakarta.

Javanese Classical Court Dances
Instruction classes are open to visitors and are held in several princely homes in Yogyakarta and Surakarta as well as in the courts (kraton) themselves.
Two well-known institutions in Yogyakarta are the Krido Bekso Wiromo and the Mardawa Budoyo dance schools. Mardawa Budoyo has at the time of this writing, four performances a week of the Ramayana ballet in Yogya, court style, each performance presenting a different episode of the story.
The Solonese princely court of Mangkunegaran is famed or its performances of langendriyan, which combines opera and dance based on stories from the (East) Janavese panji folk legends.

Javanese Ballet
There are two leading names in staging spectacular traditional dance ballets on a regular basis. One is the Prambanan open air stage near Yogyakarta, where, between June and October during nights of the full moon, performances are given of the Ramayana ballets. The other one, approximately around the same time, performance of classical Javanese ballets are held on the Candra Wilwatika open air stage at Pandaan in East Java, with stories taken from the popular East Javanese folk legends. In both case the setting accentuated the dramas. The first case is the Shivaite Prambanan temple complex and the volcano Merapi, and the second is the distant contours of volcanoes.

Wayang Wong
The Wayang Wong is a popular of theatrical dance drama taking its repertoire either the Mahabharata or Ramayana. This kind of theatre, more folk than classic, places more stress on the plot, which unfolds through long dialogues, rather than on dance.
It is often performed nightly at the People's Recreation Park (THRs) found in Java's big cities and Panca Murthi in Jakarta. A famed troupe is that which performs at the Sri Wedari recreation park in Solo (Surakarta).

Ketoprak
An offshoot of the wayang wong theatre, Ketoprak is the contemporary popular version of dance drama which takes its stories from popular folk legends and history rather than from the classic epics. Costumes, dialogues and dance, are much simpler than those at the wayang wong.

Music
Musical traditions are as diverse as the population, but the one musical expression best known and most widely associated with the country is probably the gamelan.
A complete gamelan orchestra may consist of as many as eighty instruments, the largest part comprising various types and sizes of metal percussion instruments. Drums, a zither (celempung), a rebate two-stringed upright lute, a flute and often a few other instruments complete the ensemble. Although there are variations known within each, the gamelan orchestra is basically tuned to two systems, the old pentatonic slendro and the younger seventone pelog, each producing, its own mood and having its own uses in the musical or the atrical repertoire. The creation of moods or "colour" is further archieved by the use of three principal modes (pathet) within each tuning system. The most elaborate form of gamelan is that of Central Java (Yogyakarta and Surakarta). West Java has its own gamelan ensemble, usually simpler than the Javanese with more stress on flute, drums and the bonang family of horizontally placed kettle gongs. But the most brilliant is that of Bali, where sets of "male" and "female" megalophones produce that beautiful timbre associated with the Balinese gamelan. In much more simple forms, the "gamelan" is also known in other islands of Indonesia, from southern Sumatra to Sulawesi and Kalimantan.

Gamelan
Performances of Javanese gamelan can be heard every Sunday in the Kraton of Yogyakarta. The Central Museum in Jakarta has performances of Sundanese (West Javanese) gamelan every Sunday morning. Javanese gamelan also accompanies the shortened wayang kulit performances given at the Wayang Museum in Jakarta every Sunday morning.

Bali
Regular performances of the popular dances such as the legong kraton, the barong kris and the bards dances, are easily found throughout Bali. They are usually staged for tourists by the village people. The Kecak is/performed at night by torchlight. Nowadays, even some of the formerly sacral dances, such as the fire dance, are often performed nightly for tourists notably at Kuta and Sanur beach.
 
Taman Ismail Marzuki ( TIM )
Dedicated to one of Indonesia's foremost modern composers, this art centre known popularly as TIM stages regular performances of traditional and contemporary art, including western ballet, Javanese dances, dramas and exhibitions of handicrafts and fine arts. The art centre publishes a monthly calendar of events which can be obtained at the TIM offices at Jalan Cikini Raya 73, Jakarta.
 
Taman Mini
The Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) is a cultural park which attempts to present the ethnic cultures and tradition in permanent exhibits of traditional architecture native to the 27 provinces. Performances of drama and dances of the various provinces are regularly staged in the pavillions. Like TIM, the park issues a monthly calendar of events.
 
Ancol Art Market
Art performances are frequently held at the Art Market (Pasar Seni) inside the Jaya Ancol Dreamland on Jakarta's beach. They normally range from wayang kulit shadow plays to folk dances and modern drama.