Though only a small island among the thousands of islands forming Indonesia, Bali’s culture is distinct, even unique in South-East Asia. Ancient megalithic ritual sites bear witness to the long history of this island, although many have been covered over by rices fields, villages and vegetation.
Legong is probably the best-known form of contemporary Balinese dance theatre. It was created at the turn of the eighteenth century by combining elements from older traditions such as gambuh and the Sang Hyang dedari (Sang: Lord; Hyang: God; dedari: fairy) trance dance with its many ancient animal movements.
Balinese traditional dancers begin their training in early childhood. The demanding technique is taught by moving and twisting the girls’ arms, necks, and body until ‘the dance enters their innermost being’.
Classes are not restricted to girls as male parts have equal importance in various genres of classical Balinese dances.
Gong is accompanied by an exceptionally old type of sweet-sounding gamelan, the dance is based on an older form – gambuh – but the special features of costume, the tightly wound waist and the narrow skirt, create a different aesthetic for the dance. The legs are bent forward with the torso also leaning forward. Delicate movements of the head and tensed arms are characteristic of Balinese traditional dances.
While Bali has established its reputation as one of the world’s best known tourist destinations, its classical dance and theatre have become its true icons – visitors to the island usually attend at least one or two performances. Throughout its long history, Balinese dance has been susceptible to change, but its sacral core has remain unchanged.
Tabanan is one of Bali’s most fertile and picturesque regions. Here, the landscape ranges from volcanic mountains and lush rice paddies to beautiful powder soft black beaches overlooking the Indian Ocean. Tanah Lot Temple, one of Bali’s most sacred and most visited temples is just a short drive away.
Five kilometres east of Tabanan, in the Abiantuwung village is a famous dance school where both Balinese and visitors can take classes. The Royal Stable is also situated by the Kelating Beach in Kerambitan, Tabanan. A noble family runs the the stable with six well-maintained and trained domestic and Australian horses.
The Abiantuwung village, is a famous dance school where both Balinese and foreigners can take classes. The Gedung Marya arts complex is named after I Ketut Mario, a famous dancer and choreographer in the 1920’s and 30’s. This is the site of a yearly arts festival (pesta seni) which is arranged in June. Behind this building is the Puri Tabanan royal palace, the seat of a powerful kingdom which ruled from the 17th to the 20th century.
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