Have you ever tried learning Balinese dance? It can seem pretty tricky with all those flashy eye movements, wrist twist, back arching and finger wiggling! Indeed Balinese dance can be a little challenging the first time you try…
Balinese dance dates back more than 1000 years and there are hundreds of different dances that have been created and developed over the centuries. With origins in Indian, Chinese and Javanese dance, Balinese dance movements are highly stylised and closely interconnected with gamelan orchestral music. Each movement, position, transition and mimic has a specific name, and students learn these as they study with a teacher, who will chant these words in a sing-song manner.
Whilst the terminology is well documented in text form, little has been produced in other media – such as video – which is now a much more popular media than the written word. Award-winning dance instructor and co-founder of Mekar Bhuana Conservatory in Bali, Putu Evie Suyadnyani, saw the need for both documenting the Balinese terminology in video form; whilst at the same time producing a tutorial series to help students study prior to or as they learn.
The first in the series is entitled ‘Balinese Female Dance Movements Part I’ and explains some of the most basic positions, transitions and mimics for those with no or little prior experience of Balinese dance – basically a ‘Balinese dance for dummies’, ‘Balinese dance for those with two left feet’ edition to get you started from absolute zero.
Filmed at Mekar Bhuana Conservatory in Denpasar, the tutorial takes students on a dance journey step by step to the peaceful looping melodies of Mekar Bhuana’s 100-year-old semara patangian (pelegongan) gamelan orchestra.
The video is narrated in English with Indonesian subtitles and English translations of the Balinese dance terms. Evie believes that having all three languages is important in making Balinese dance more global, and more easily accessible to people all over the world.
A bonus feature in the DVD is a dance performance by the conservatory’s professional dancers accompanied by their antique seven-tone semara pagulingan set (this DVD, entitled ‘Semara Pagulingan with Gambuh Dances’ is available on www.mekarbhuana.com. This dance, called Gabor, was filmed in a beautiful historic temple in central Denpasar that dates back hundreds of years.
Evie hopes that this DVD tutorial, and later its downloadable version, will help to spread the beauty of this ancient art-form further around the world – after all, Mekar Bhuana in Balinese means just that: ‘to blossom around the world’!
Released in 2011, the DVD is available on Mekar Bhuana’s online store, as well as at numerous CD stores in Bali.