Thursday, 12 August 2010

Bali: Fourth Post: Arja Dance

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Yesterday was an exhausting day, with close to 8 hours non-stop photography. We had been invited to a large cremation ceremony which involved 6 individuals, and where we spent the whole morning into the early afternoon. Subsequently, some of us attended a Barong and an Arja dance at the communal temple of Pitra, which extended well into the night. The above photograph is of an Arja dancer pantomiming a sorrowful pose.

Arja enacts old stories mainly based on the Panji Romances (11-14th centuries) and uses dialogue understood only by Balinese-speaking audiences. Many of the stories derived from Balinese tales, Chinese and Arabic, and from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Most of the characters are performed by male actors who take the roles of women. Many performances are usually full of comedic ribald jokes, and engage the audience. It reminded me of traditional Chinese opera, except for the part when one of the dancers blew me kisses, to the utter delight of the audience.

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