I Wayan Bawa starts with an excerpt from Gambuh, the oldest Balinese form of dance-drama dating from the 15th century.
After a short auto-biographical presentation, he explains some of the basic principles of Balinese theatre, dance, music and vocal techniques: posture, steps, right and left position, manis and keras (soft and strong) quality of energy, composition and feelings in both male and female characters. The main part of the demonstration is dedicated to Topeng, the well-known Balinese mask dance. Topeng, in Balinese, means mask, and it is also the name of the masked performances. Topeng takes its narratives from the Babad or Chronicles of the Balinese Kings. In Topeng there are silent full masks, speaking half masks. The penasar has the task of explaining the story to the audience and the comic bonres interact with the spectators. A Topeng performance starts with the Topeng Tua (the old man) and ends with Sidya Kharya (the divinity who ends the dance) by sprinkling blessed water and holding a white cloth as protection against evil spirits.
Gambuh is Bali’s oldest surviving ritual theatre. Its characteristic epic form using acting, dance, dialogue, singing and music became the source for today’s theatre. Today Gambuh is in danger of becoming extinct. In Gambuh the main characters speak and sing in Kawi accompanied by attendants who translate their dialogues into present-day Balinese. The plays are taken from the Malat cycle of tales which revolves around the heroic mythical prince Panji’s quest for his beloved Rangkesari. The Gambuh gamelan orchestra consists of drums, gongs, bells and flutes and ancient bronze metallophones, characteristic of most other gamelan orchestras in Bali. The musical structure of Gambuh forms the basis of nearly all Balinese music.
Created in collaboration with: Julia Varley.