Sunday, December 6, 2009

Legong dancers of Bali, Indonesia

I love learning about traditional dances - they often say so much about the local culture, and they're almost always interesting to watch. And thanks to the marvel of YouTube, I can watch all of them with my own eyes. The girls pictured on the card here are dressed up for the traditional Legong dance of Bali, Indonesia.

The Legong Dance is a reenactment of a period in history of East Java during the 12th and 13th centuries. When on a journey the King of Lasem finds the maiden Rangkesari lost in the forest. He takes her home and locks her in a house of stone. Rangkesari's brother, the Prince of Daha, learns of her captivity and threatens war unless she is released. Rangkesari begs the king to release her to prevent war, but the king refuses. On the way to battle he sees a bird of ill omen that predicts his death, which eventually comes true. In particular, the dance dramatizes the the farewell of the king on his way to battle and the ominous encounter with the bird.

The dance includes three performers - the condong, a female attendant of the court, and two legongs. The girls, who are rarely older than 14, are bound head to toe in gold brocade, with a gold and flower crown and dramatic face make-up. Often the performers are handpicked by the local prince. These girls would have trained in Legong from the age of 4 or younger. The dance is accompanied by the unique instrument, the gamelan, and individual layers of eye, hand, hip, and foot movements are meant to reflect the various percussive layers of the gamelan.

But words never do justice to a beautiful and complicated dance like the Legong. Watch the video below and see for yourself how amazing it is. I especially love the eye movements.


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