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Dance and Religion in Bali
Dance in Bali are both secular and religious and divided into three types namely, wali, bebali and balih-balihan, depending on which part of the temple they are performed.
By: Bali Dance Drama
In Balinese society, therefore, dance performs many functions:
- As a channel for visiting gods or demonic gods, the dancer acting as a sort of living repository. These trance dances include the Sang Hyang Dedari, with little girls in trance and the Sang Hyang Jaran, a fire dance.
- As a welcome for visiting gods, such as the pendet, rejang and sutri dances.
- As entertainment for visiting gods, such as the topeng and the wayang.
In some of these dances *see: http://balidancedrama.blogspot.com, the role of dancing is so important that it is actually the key to any meaning to be found in the ritual. In wayang performances, the puppeteer is often seen as the ‘priest’ sanctifying the holy water.
As well as their use in religious ceremonies, dance and drama also have a strong religious content. It is often said that drama is the preferred medium through which the Balinese cultural tradition is transmitted. The episodes performed are usually related to the rites taking places, during a wedding one performs a wedding story, at a death ritual there is a visit to ‘hell’ by the heroes. Clowns (penasar) comment in Balinese peppering their jokes with religious and moral comments on stories whose narratives use Kawi (Old Javanese).
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An important part of Balinese culture, dance and drama are regarded as expressions of devotion to the gods and means of infusing the younger generation with old values.