Notes on Balinese Dance, and the series of drawings and paintings of Balinese and Javanese performing arts, 1992-2004

If breath is life, then dance is the celebration of it.

         Traditional dance throughout Asia is an offering, a gesture to the divine for the delight and amusement of all. The form and structure, characters, plot and musical accompaniment are well known to the audiences -- everyone has their favorite. For many, Legong epitomizes Balinese dance. The image of two young, shimmering legongs, wrapped from breast to toe is gold painted silks, defines Balinese dance and embodies the just-out-of-reach exoticism of this romantic island.

         In gesture and song, the masked dancers of Wayang Wong reenact episodes from The Ramayana tale of the troubled Prince, the abduction of his beloved Sita, the heroics of Hanoman, the monkey general and the convoluted war of monkeys, giants, birds and men. The archaic court opera, Gambuh, reenacts the romance of Panji Sakti & Putri Candra Kirana, from the medieval poem Malat. Topeng (masked dance) based on the Babad Dalem (Chronicles of the Kings), imbues ancient tales of intrigue, love and power with timeless significance. Topeng Panjak: the mask and the character show a regular Made, who comments on the events at hand, invites us in, commends the good work of the celebration at hand and generally gets the evening going. In Topeng Tua, an old man stiff and hunched, forgets for a moment his age and aches with sweet memories and sudden bursts of vigor. It's a gentle dance with a haunting flute accompaniment. The comic operas, Arja and drama draw the locals for the obligatory romantic triangle and lewd slapstick: raw wit coupled with sheer silliness. Celuluk, a comic leyak monster, balding and pot bellied, scares the daylights out of kids still awake for these midnight shows.

         Even more macabre is Calonarang, an exorcism that chills and electrifies the audience. The classic drama of witchcraft and terror stars a wild cast of leyaks headed by the widow-witch Calonarang or Rangda. The masks used, housed in shrines in the temple are tenget, magically charged and a performance is serious business, intended to cleanse the village of black magic, held on a dark moon night by the Temple of the Dead, right beside the cemetery. Sakti, "the unattainable" in Sanscrit, describes the power of Uma/Durga, Siwa's partner, a primeval notion of feminine power -- spiritual, magical, creative, destructive. In her benevolent guise, as Uma, she's a nurturing mother. In her destructive guise, Durga, she's a murderous, voracious magician who can assume any form -- dog, demon, giant, monkey -- to perpetrate destruction. In Bali, she is Rangda or Calonarang, the vicious widow magician. Several series of Calonarang paintings came from watching performances in Karangasem, Ubud and Kerobokan.

         Kebyar means lightning, and the dance is a female solo of a male role, portraying the passion of youth. The dance conveys a psychological portrait in movement & music.. Another, closely related dance uses similar techniques: flashing eyes, staccato snaps and swings of a fan and swirling meters of brocade. The dance is Taruna Jaya, choreographed in the '50's by I Gede Manik, in the tradition of Kebyar as a solo for a female dancer portraying the flashing vigor of a youth. One series of watercolors depicts a famous Peliatan dancer and teacher: Anak Agung Raka Kusumasari performing Kebyar. A series of graphite and wax drawings of hands show the gestures of Taruna Jaya and Kebyar - just the fingers, splayed and extended convey the electric energy of the dances.

         Oleg Tambulilingan conveys the image of a bumblebee sipping honey from a blossom, the threat of a sting, the lure of sweetness;. The metaphor is attraction, seduction. Oleg was choreographed by Bali's famed dancer and choreographer, Mario for the 1951 world tour of Anak Agung Gede Mandera's Peliatan group and first performed by Gusti Ayu Raka, still a child when she went on tour to the West.

Charm in the moon, brilliance in the sun, motion in the air, and endurance in the earth -- these are their essential nature; in you all these are found and in addition, eternal glory. ---Laksmana's speech, Valmiki's

         The Indian epic poem, Ramayana made its way throughout all of South East Asia and provides inspiration, plot and charactors for dance in every nation. The audiences know everything about the tale, yet their fascination continues unabated and the quality of the performance is assessed in nuances: the skill of musicians and dancers, the fine points of eloqution; the fluidity of movement; the wit, timing and delivery.

To honor his father's promise, Rama went to the Dandaka Forest with his brother Laksmana and his wife Sita. A demon disguised as a deer tricked Rama & Laksmana away while the wicked Ravana abducted Sita. Searching for her, Rama wandered the forest... Endowed with extraordinary energy, I crossed the ocean; and blessed I am that I am able to behold that Sita. -- Hanoman's speech,Valmiki's Ramayana

BARIS, the warrior
Anello, copyright 1994. Published Bali Echo Magazine.

         Dancing Shiva, god of destruction: arms flailing faster than light, each one bearing a weapon, thighs turned out, knees bent, calves flexed, toes extended, gravity like a thunderbolt in a straight shaft of internal light, center pivot from proud head to the balls of the feet. A figure forged of fire and metal, a classic Gupta Indian bronze: that's the Baris, the dance of the warrior.

         There are a variety of different Baris, but all are martial dances: bebarisan means line or formation; the performers are soldiers in a line, all men. Baris can be a solo, but in Bebarisan there are at least 4, or as many as 60 dancers demonstrating their skill in weaponry and drill. Kidung Sunda, an East Javanese poem (1550) mentions 7 different kinds of bebarisan performed during the 42 days of funeral celebration held by Hayum Wuruk, the greatest Majapahit king. My most beautiful Baris drawings depict a young girl, from Geria Tubuh, Abang, Karangasem, Ida Ayu Basmiari, only twelve when I saw her perform the dance of the young warrior.

The costume:

         The gelung-gelungan: a cone-shaped head-dress adorned with triangular petal-shaped flashing metal bits catches the light. The awiran or lelamakan: is a swirling arrangement of long, colored scarves hanging from shoulders to thighs, over a black, red or white shirt.
The bapang: a filigreed leather stone-studded collar, tied around the neck, covers the shoulders, and the setagan, a long tie secures his kris (sword).

the dances:

         We usually see a solo Baris, but there are many variations. Baris Tumbang is performed in double lines with 12 to 20 dancers in mock battle using a long, peacock feather-tipped spear, called a tumbak, accompanied by Gamelan Gong Gede.

         In Baris Presi, performed by eight dancers in small, tight circles, the weapon of choice is a knobbed shield of painted and gilded leather with a fluted edge and wooden handle. In Baris Omang, 8 dancers face off, starting from a kneeling position, they rise, shift the shield and prepare to fight. In Baris Djodjor, the eight dancers are armed with lances; the music is Gamelan Tembang Kirang. In Baris Dadap, four to sixteen dancers in pairs with shields, are accompanied by Gemelan Tempang Kirang. In North Bali, the young, unmarried men perform Baris Panah, with a bow and arrow. Baris Pendet is an offering dance, prayer before battle, performed by young boys carrying silver bowls strewn with flower petals. It's meant to be performed in the dead of night before the dawn battle. Baris Cina (Chinese Baris), specific to Renon, Denpasar, is performed by nine dancers. The leader carrying swords, moves in Chinese martial arts patterns to an accompaniment of Gong Beri, a Chinese bronze gong ensemble.

         Baris Melampahan, "the most impressive and brilliant of all" according to performer/ scholar, I Made Bandem, is a drama performed in Kawi (ancient Javanese language). The story is taken either from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata or Arjuna Wiwaha, a Balinese poem telling of the marriage of Arjuna to the nymph Dewi Supraba. The music has 3 movements: gilak/bapang,/gilak. (Gilak, from the word galak, means fierce, expressive, emotional. Bapang is a sweet, calm interlude). Together they epitimize the ideal of a fierce and passionate, yet controlled, even manis (sweet) young male warrior.

         The dance opens with a flashy gesture to open the curtain. Then, the dancer strikes a standing position (agem), the exact stance varies according to charactor -- with arms and fingers held high and trembling (gegirahan). Theseledet , flickering eye movements, are crucial to the dance -- lifted eyebrows, wide-eyed stares, sudden shifts and sidelong glances (dedeling) are the stuff and essence of Baris dance. Through these discreet but dramatic movements of eye and fingertip, the dancer conveys all the anticipation, tension, and courage of a scared young fighter. The dancer moves slowly and deliberately into pedjalan, the walking section. With a sudden burst of energy (angsel) he transits into the next section. In gelatik nuut papah , he moves with umbrellas (symbolic of the presence of the gods). The 9-petaled lotus (nawa sari) pose: one foot up, toes curled, one hand on knee, one hand on headdress. Seregseg: quick, tiny steps, weight on the balls of the feet. Ulap:: the dancer scopes out his enemy just before attacking. Gandang arep: a slow walk forward. Gandang uri: slow walk backward. Dadengkleng: the ending, one foot raised, toes curled. Ngeteg: stamping.

Calonarang: A Balinese Drama of Witchcraft & Intrigue
text & photographs by Barbara Anello, copyright 1993, published, Bali Echo, 199-

         Approaching midnight in the quiet village of Besang on the eastern slopes of Gunung Agung, the whole village gathers on the grassy lawn outside the courtyard of Pura Dalem, the temple of Siwa and his consort, Durga. Here, just beyond a curve where the road breaks over a now dry riverbed strewn with black volcanic rock, is the place where hot lava streamed to the sea when Gunung Agung erupted in 1963. The desolate landscape still bears scars of fire and molten rock. Tonight, the Rangda mask, manifestation of Durga, Goddess of Destruction is brought from her shrine to dance the classic drama, Calonarang, a sacred dance, performed only on holy or auspicious occasions, on a full moon, new moon or Kajeng Kliwon, a magically charged day that occurs every fifteen days by the Balinese calendar.

         Backstage the dancers dress and make-up, as usual, to an audience of hordes of open-mouthed, fascinated kids. The attention doesn't faze them a bit. Ida Wayan Padang, an octogenarian dancer from Abang, in the role of the malicious widow, Calonarang or Walunateng Dirah, catches my eye and spontaneously strikes the most bizarre pose, making an absurdist portrait: an aging man in white face, painted dots and wrinkles, cherry pout lips, cradling a plastic baby doll and gazing with all the attentive compassion of a new mother into the sightless, bright blue eyes of the plastic toy prop.

         There are many versions of the Calonarang story. The widow-witch, Walunateng Dirah, Diah Udarawati or Calonarang, has been identified as the historical Queen Mahendradatta, whose stepson, the King Erlangga, fearing her magical powers, exiled her to the forest after the suspicious death of his father. In the land of Dirah, she honed her skills and trained beautiful young disciples to dance in the graveyard and transform themselves into leyaks, demons of black magic.

Rangda is Durga, the wife of Siwa in her dread aspect...She is Queen Mahendradatta, a character out of Indonesian history, mother of King Erlangga, the Balinese prince who became king in Java in 1019 A.D... She is the angry widow (literally 'Calonarang' means widow), a stock character of the classic Tjalonarang play... She is a mother figure...She is Fear.
--Jane Belo, Bali: Rangda and Barong

Sakti (the unattainable) is a Sanscrit word for the essential feminine power of Uma/Durga, Siwa's feminine aspect, a notion of primeval female power, spiritual, magical, creative, destructive. In her benevolent guise, as Uma, she is a nurturing mother. In her destructive guise, Durga, she is a murderous, voracious, consuming magician who can assume any form -- dog, demon, giant, monkey -- to perpetrate destruction. In Bali, she is Rangda or Calonarang, the vicious widow magician.          In Indonesian, the term sakti has come to mean someone who has attained supernatural power through meditation, study and practice. In this drama, there are two sakti, Calonarang and her nemesis, Mpu Bharadah, as ascetic. But his magic is white; hers, black and inverted. The theme, so usual in Balinese art is polarity and balance. Day for night, light and dark, dharma and adharma. The Calonarang drama is a tale of a land out of balance, a kingdom under the threat of annihilation.

In the climactic battle between Calonarang and her foe, Mpu Bharadah, both magicians take their primal forms, Rangda and the Barong. At the start of the battle, Mpu Bharadah creates an army of Rangda's victims resurrected -- he brings the dead to life. But the witch is stronger. As he feels his strength ebbing, he transforms himself into the Barong, the mythic dragon-protector, so gentle in demeanor it seems impossible he can defeat the raucous Rangda, but he does, at least temporarily. The battle is never really concluded. Rangda and the Barong are forever entwined in the struggle of good and evil. Unusually a truce prevails, a shifting balance, but at times, when Rangda's rage threatens, the sacred masks are taken from their shrines in the temple and the Calonarang drama is enacted outside the temple of the dead, where you see her figure in stone, laughably horrific, with huge, pendulous breasts, pop-eyes, fangs and a menacing stance.

         Calonarang is one of the most studied of all Balinese dramas and the blood-thirsty widow figures in most of the literature on drama and dance. Claire Holt, Bateson and Mead, Jane Belo, all delved into the persona and presence of Rangda/Durga both as dramatic character and mythic archetype. Judy Slattum's recent Masks of Bali beautifully depicts the iconography of the sacred masks. The Dutch scholar C. Hooykaas, instrumental in compiling the library of lontar, Gedong Kirtya, translated esoteric and magical texts, including Calonarang, Basur and other tales of witchcraft. He, in turn drew on the work of Korn, Boris and others who had collected medical texts with endlessly varied, elegant and bizarre line drawings of Rangda and the other gods and disease-causing demon.

         The whole village has turned out. Old ladies, little kids and all the important locals. It's impossible to get through the crowds packed right up to the performance space, a green lawn cordoned off with low bamboo poles. There's no electricity. A boy in white keeps the oil lamps burning, lighting the scene with a warm, clear white radiance. The gong begins with a flash of kendang (drums), gender (xylophone) and soft suling (flute). The music is Semar Pangulingan for Legong Kraton. Five young girls open with a sinister dance of black magic. They're going to meet their teacher, the witch, Calonarang.

         Cut: a small girl steps gingerly out the Condong (servant), radiant in painted, golden silk. she lifts her shrill voice in song. Using high and flowery language, she praises her own beauty, her lovely clothes, her nubile young body, in a song called, Pupuh Dangdang or Pangkur. Enter: Ratna Mengali, the Condong's mistress and daughter of Calonarang. Although the mother is the most feared witch in Dirah, the daughter knows nothing of magic. In a poignant and brittle song, who mourns her wasted beauty, her lonely youth. No admirers. No suitors. None brave enough to risk the dreaded mother.

         Cut: Gruyut or Odah (old woman), hunched and pale, leaning on a stick. This is Calonarang. She's angry. She's waiting. "Where are those stupid girls. I ordered them to Daha to murder Erlangga, now where are the blundering little fools? With a wild flush of gamelan, escorted by tiny boys bearing umbrellas, the girls come. "We've strewn death, disease and havoc throughout Daha, land of Raja Prabu Erlangga," they report. But the arrogant Calonarang demands, "Why didn't you kill the king? I sent you to murder Erlangga!"          "No you didn't," retorts Ni Rarung, the brazen little witch, most talented of all the girls. "You ordered us to make them sick and that's just what we did!"          "Be that as it may," the witch concedes and orders them to prepare a bed for her in the graveyard.

         Cut to Daha, in the court of Raja Prabu Erlangga: two servants waiting for their king bemoan the plague that's overtaken Daha. The Raja, heartbroken over the condition of his kingdom, orders his servants to call Maling Maguna, a warrior clever enough to match the evil antics of Calonarang (Maling means thief). They decide to embark on the only possible course of action: kill the witch. Maling Maguna leaves for Dirah with the king's servants. Meanwhile, the young witches dance Ngerehang, to change their shape and transform themselves into leyaks, demons of destruction, the very personification of evil. Ni Rarung, the cleverest one transforms into her leyak form. The audience reacts in terror, ready to bolt. The crowd is electric now, almost out of control, children crying, women hiding their faces. Rangda leaps over me and hurls herself into the crowd, dragging a musician along. The crowd breaks and runs. chills up and down my spine now, too. what's happening here? Is this in the script or are we all out of control?

Abruptly the leyaks disappear, the crowd reshuffles, settles itself, tension subsides and we find ourselves looking onto a familiar, domestic scene: parents cradle a small baby, their elder daughter stands close by. But this baby is deathly ill. The balian (traditional doctor) is powerless against the evil plague of Calonarang and the baby dies.

         Maling Maguna reaches the cemetery where Calonarang rests and sees the entrails of corpses, the remains of Rangda's feast, strewn among the treetops. In horror, he bolts, but the servants pull him back and remind him of his mission. Spirited again, Maling Maguna wants to climb up to the spot where Calonarang lies sleeping after her gluttony. But the witch smells danger. In a rage she wakens, leaps and attacks. Maling Maguna runs. Rangda pursues and with a single sweep of her tongue in his footprints, he falls dead.

         The performance breaks for a significant moment, the temple priest of Pura Dalem makes an offering called labagan to Rangda. The Rangda mask stays here in the temple in it's own shrine, high, protected, never touched or seen. The mask is tenget, charged with the spiritual power of Durga and must be taken out to dance from time to time, to exercise that energy. And when it does, offerings must be made to the deity. This is a moment of ceremony n the midst of the drama.

         A tenget (spiritually charged) mask is literally alive with the spirit of the deity. The dancer wearing the mask is charged with the energy of that spirit for as long as he wears the mask. Masks like this Rangda need a sakti or spiritually powerful person to wear them -- their innate power (it's said) could overwhelm, maybe even kill an ordinary man. Before beginning the performance, the dancer makes offering to the goddess to enlist her permission to wear the mask.

         Rangda is unforgettable. Preposterous. Decked out like a banshee in fashionably elemental black, white and red, she swings ponderous breasts and flails the air with ten-centi long fingernails, assuming the splayed posture of a drag queen from hell. The mask has a thigh-long mane of matted blonde horse-hair dread locks, a drooling leather tongue, filigreed with swirls and curls, a menacing overbite and boar's tusks. Her eyes pop in concentric circles of black, red and white. The mask of Ni Rarung, the clever disciple, in her leyak form, is iconographicly similar to Rangda, but less exaggerated. Si Cululuk is a garish, bald-headed, pot-bellied buffoon. Ni Lenda Lendi retains her beauty but the mask belies femininity with bulging, manic eyes and a ravenous red mouth. Calonarang meets her students, all in their leyak forms to dance a frenzied finale of destruction intended to devastate the land of Daha and everyone in it.

         Even before I realize the performance is over, the crowd leaves in a quick minute. No milling around. No gossip, no bantering critique. Home and safety, as quick as possible, out of here, out of the temple of the dead. the dancers are served rice and roast suckling pig. It's quiet, almost dawn when we pull out of these in twos and threes on motorbikes, loaded with bags of make-up baskets of costumes, head dresses and the big, plastic baby doll.

         The performance is ended by the story goes on. After such a serious defeat, Raja Prabu Erlangga performs a ceremony to purify himself and strengthen his own magical powers to match Calonarang. He enlists the help of Mpu Bharadah, a Tantric sage and they conceive a brilliant plan. Mpu Bharadah will arrange a marriage between his son, Mpu Bahula and Ratna Mangali, the daughter of Calonarang. Then through his daughter-in-law, he can infiltrate the witches territory, obtain her books of magic, undermine her plans and strategies and defeat Calonarang.

         With this strategic marriage, Mpu Bharadah gains power over Calonarang and tries to convince her to change her evil ways. But the witch is intransigent and in a battle of dharma against adharma, Barong against Rangda, Calonarang is defeated-- for now. Until the next time the priests bring the masks out from their quiet shrines and everyone gathers under the star-marked sky of a dark moon to see again the story of lust, power and bitter revenge.

Stories in Mask & Paint: Balinese Prembon
copyright Barbara Anello with Ida Made Adhi Putra, 1993
published, Bali Echo Magazine 1993

         A clear night outside the temple. We're in Karangasem, but we could be almost anywhere in Bali, from Tianyar to Gianyar, Bugbug to Pidpid, even in the thick of Denpasar on a night of an odalan, a temple celebration. The work is done, offerings piled up and already blessed, everybody's finally finished working. They're relaxed and feeling good. Now they're out for a late night. The performance starts around eleven and lasts a few hours. Every celebration must have dance or a drama. Performance is an intrinsic part of the festivities, part of the offerings to the divine. Topeng, Prembon or Arja are the usual late night fare. The crowd builds. Mill around a bit. Sip a black coffee and arak (coconut whiskey) at the warung. Gambling is big with the pre-puberty and aging male crowd. Shopping is always popular. Of course, the teens are checking each other out. shift the baby from hip to hip, the kids spill in close to the gamelan, the old guys have picked their spot; it's time to begin.

         The curtain shakes, somebody's vibrating it from behind with the same electric energy that starts the emphatic gong. The music brings on the first dancer in a flamboyant, aggressive mood: Topeng Keras, a male solo, using the mask of Patih, the Raja's adviser.

         Topeng is masked dance. There are many different kinds. Solo dances warm up to the longer, masked dance performed by five or seven dancers. The first of three preliminary silent solos is usually Topeng Keras, an unrestrained, energetic solo, followed by Topeng Tua, a gentle dance with a haunting flute accompaniment. An old man, stiff and hunched, forgets for a moment his age and infirmities with sweet memories and sudden bursts of vigor. The dancer engages the audience with this character, teasing little kids, scaring them even to tears with his wrinkled mask, wispy, wild white wig and unexpected moves. Sudden, attacking thrusts of energy are paired with stumbling reminders of age. Topeng Buduh (buduh means "crazy" in Balinese), the third solo is just that -- crazy, erratic and vigorous.

         The panjak masks portray the public, the raja's people. The character, a regular Made, the guy next door, comments on the events at hand, mulls over and extrapolates on the significance and purpose of the celebration. He congratulates his audience on the fine work they've done in preparing this celebration. The gods are surely pleased. The white jauk mask is a refined, restrained Raja. Jauk detia, the red jauk mask with bulging eyes and a black mustache is an expressive, emotional character. Both Jauk wear a high, oval golden crown and sport white gloves with false fingernails eight or nine centimeters long.

         With the warm-up dances finishing, the performers have the audience involved, focused and ready for the main event. Most scenarios are based on the Babad, histories of Balinese-Hindu princes and priests, or on excerpts from the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. The group of dancers performing may have worked together frequently. On the other hand, they may never have performed together before this event. Yet there's no elaborate rehearsal. The dancers group on site only a few hours before the performance will begin. They are served coffee, perhaps dinner. They discuss with those who commissioned them the significance of the event and occasion. They then choose a plot appropriate to the occasion. Both performers and audience are so familiar with the genre, stories, characters and themes, that essentially the skill of the performance is in the improvisation.

         In Topeng, every dancer wears a mask. Arja is without masks, the dancers paint their faces. Prembon is a mix of Topeng and Arja, paint and mask. The plots, characters and outcomes are familiar to the audience,variations on a theme. The audience is interested in the story, sure, but the discerning, critical audience, that is, anyone over the age of ten -- is more interested in the delivery, the timing, the humor, the technique. Stance, gesture and dance are important, but so are dialogue, speaking and singing. As many as three or four languages may be used: High and Low Balinese, Basa Kawi (Archaic Javanese); Indonesian and a joke or two tossed aside in English and/or Japanese.

         There are about thirty different masks, some represent distinct characters, but most are types: the good raja, the corrupt raja, the farmer, the old man and so on. The iconography of the masks is centuries old and quite consistent. Refined characters have pale or golden skin with finely arched brows and delicate lashes, maybe a thin mustache perfectly curled at the tips, with a placid expression. The raksasa giants have big, bulbous eyes, thick noses, strong cheeks and lush, red grins. The comic characters have every infirmity known to man: buck teeth, twisted, hare lips, broken or twisted noses, eyes askew. White is refined; red, aggressive; blue, loyal; brown, vulgar and strong.

arak and brem          Before the performance, as the dancers are dressing and making up, one (or each one) makes the requisite offerings for all the masks and head dresses which will be worn. S/he makes offerings to Brahma for movement, Iswara for dialogue and to the taksu, the ancestral, original dancer. Lastly, the demons are given a splash of arak and brem (coconut whiskey and rice wine) to liven their spirits and honor their presence..

         The Raja's servants, Penasar and Wijil or Penasar Cenikan (Little Penasar) provide the comic relief, a Shakespearean link with the audience. They generate a wildly ribald exchange of slapstick. Even if you don't speak a word of Balinese, these guys are still a kick. It's Vaudeville. No wonder Balinese TV shows reruns of The Three Stooges. Their verbal jesting is as goofy as the body language. Naturally sex and money are the main topics. The metaphors for genitalia are priceless: "What's that you've got there under your saput, Made? a flashlight? And the girl: "a pouch full of tobacco"! [NB: a saput is an over cloth worn by a male, around the waist over the kain sarong.]The stories are predictable moral tales intend to drive home lessons of classic Hindu religion and society. The stock characters are plucked from the ranks of ancient morality plays: loyal woman, heroic young warrior with self-effacing side-kick; the just and well-loved governor, possibly a tragic father; the pathological step-mother and her ambitious, incapable off-spring. This being Bali, there's always a moment of total theater of the absurd -- a shiver up the spine finale when all the assortment of leyaks convene -- those creatures conjured up out of black magic. There's excess, plague, passion and death.

Topeng Pajegan & Sidhakarya & a profile of the dancer, Ida Wayan Padang photographs & text by Barbara Anello with Ida Made Adhi Putra, copyright 1994

         Topeng Pajegan: one male dancer, inside the temple during a ceremony. The gamelan's playing. There's the usual hustle bustle surrounding a ceremony with hordes of kids and women going about their complex business disbursing offerings here and there, greeting guests with coffee and sweets, overseeing thousands of details. A pedanda (high priest) chants mantra off in a special bamboo pavilion, a dalang (shadow puppet master) performs using no screen -- entertainment for the gods, called wayang sudamala, or wayang bedog. Then, at some point in the afternoon on the last day of the ceremony there must be the Sidhakarya dance.

         Topeng Pajegan, a series of masked dances by a solo performer who portrays several characters using a different mask for each one. With a full mask the dance is silent Other half-masks allow for speaking. The dancer chooses a theme to compliment the purpose of the ceremony and then plays every character necessary to tell the story, each with a different mask, a different stance, timing, voice and posture. The stories come from the babad, histories of the Hindu-Balinese kings and princes. The story must fit the occasion, with characters and dialogue significant to the ceremony. Ceremonies in Hindu-dharma each have a very specific purpose and function according to manusia, pitra,or dewa yadna (ceremonies for people, the dead or the gods) and every detail is intended to enhance and insure the success of the ceremony. The Balinese word makarya, meaning "work" in high Balinese, is used to describe the preparations and participation in the ceremony. Dance is part of that "work."

         Topeng Pajegan culminates with Sidhakarya, the final dance in the cycle - karya meaning work in High Balinese language, sidha meaning "to succeed, accomplish, or do". Wearing a tan, brown or golden-complexioned mask with a demonic, laughing grimace, the dancer enters, seats himself on a mat surrounded by all the paraphernalia of offering. The character is from the priestly caste, Brahmana, whose function is to perform ceremonies. Surrounded by an array of incense, flower petals and holy water, the dancer makes offering and prays for the work of the ceremony to be received and recognized by God. Sidhakarya is not only a performance, it's not symbolic. It's an actual offering, a necessary part of the ceremony and must be performed by a Brahmana. When the offering is complete, the dance is finished and the work of the ceremony itself complete.

         The story of Sidhakarya comes from the plot of an old tale of a ceremony during the reign of Dalem Waturenggong in Gelgel (south of Klungkung). At that time, a plague was ravaging Bali and the raja, Dalem Waturenggong prepared a great ceremony called, Nanggluk Merana, at Besakih Temple, intended to stop the plague. Just then a strange Brahmana arrived from Keling, Java, looking for Dalem Waturenggong, claiming to be family. The servants and courtiers called him crazy and threw him out, but Brahmana Keling refused to leave and insisted on seeing "his brother, Dalem Waturenggong" Angrily, the servants forced him out and he left cursing, "May you die of the plague!"

         Everything was prepared for the ceremony, offerings of fruit and flowers piled high. With the curse of Brahmana Keling, the ducks and hens to complete the ceremony fell over dead, the yellow coconut leaf containers for offerings shriveled and dried up; even the land dried and wouldn't yield. From Besakih, Dalem Waturenggong looked around in dismay. A voice from the heavens ordered him to meet the Brahmana from Keling. "Find him," Waturenggong ordered his advisors, "and bring him to Besakih." There, Dalem Waturenggong asked the man to lift his curse and help him complete the work of the ceremony promising, "If you can help me restore Bali to health and end the ruinous plague, I'll treat you as family and give you the name, Dalem Sidhakarya."

         Brahmana Keling then asked for witnesses to verify his actions and speech and began: "You see that hen over there. It's white. Tell me it's white." And everyone answered, "The hen is white" and sure enough, at second glance, the speckled black hen was indeed pure white. The coconut trees were too young to bear fruit and Dalem Sidhakarya pointed up. "Look at all the ripe coconuts" and sure enough, the trees were heavy with fruit. And everyone knew they were in the presence of the miraculous. Then in the course of the ceremony, Dalem Sidhakarya declared himself Lord of all the merana, the insects, rats, all the germ-carrying, plaque-spreading trouble-makers. That's why the Sidhakarya mask has such a strange, demonic, laughing expression. When Brahmana Keling arrived from Java, his expression and demeanor were refined but when he took charge of the merana, his expression changed to match the task.

         Dalem Waturenggong kept his promise and gave Dalem Sidhakarya a place to live in Suwung Village just south of Denpasar. And he further ordered that henceforth, any person performing a ceremony anywhere in Bali must go to Sidhakarya to ask for help to complete the work of the upacara. The offering made in the dance must include catur wija, four varieties of uncooked rice or peanuts, and panca taru, five kinds of scented wood. And Dalem Waturenggong instructed his people, "Don't curse the merana, they too, are from God."

         This is the story, make of it what you will.: faith performs miracles; a clever con can turn heads as well as speckled hens to white: or a great performance can change the world...but if you see the dance and the bizarre mask, you'll know the story!

         The dancer isIda Wayan Padang, of Geria Tubuh, Abang, the most famous dancer and teacher in Karangasem; the only one of his contemporaries still dancing, and he's in constant demand, although he performs only sacral dance. Born in Budakeling in 1913, Ida Wayan is the oldest, and in spirit, the youngest, of a large family. He started dancing as a ten year old and mastered gambuh, the most difficult and one of the oldest of Balinese dance forms, Prembon, Arja, Topeng and Calonarang. By the age of sixteen he was already teaching. Now, close to eighty, he still performs. He has taught widely, from Singaraja to Lombok and all over Karangasem. His children and grandchildren often perform with him as part of a group called, Gema Iswara.

         Ida Wayan has the commanding presence, in his favorite shocking pink pull over and knit cap with cats ears, of a man who has dedicated a long life to his art. He has witnessed eventful times: the Dutch colonial era, the Japanese occupation; poverty and foreign occupation, World War II, then merdeka, and the fight for Independence. In 1946, he was appointed kepala desa (village head) of Pidpid; and from 1948 to 1950 he served as Kepala Desa of Ababi, Abang. In spite of the demands of the position, he never stopped dancing and teaching. From 1931 through 1947 he taught classical Balinese dance in Sibetan, Bebandem, Subagan and Manggis.

         Then in 1963, when life should have becoming increasingly easier, Gunung Agung erupted. In a single night, he and his family lost everything. Leaving Budakeling, they walked all night to safety in Manggis. His mother died of a heart attack that night. Afterward, they lived in Singaraja for about fifteen years, where Ida Wayan made his living as a carpenter, continuing to dance and teach. He described a fabulous tale of a cyclone that blew over Singaraja while he was living there, working on a construction project to build the public bus station. Out of nowhere the wind picked up and he saw a twister in the distance. Running up the hills, into the fields, he threw himself on the dirt and clung to a tree. As he watched the cyclone lifted a donkey cart into the sky, took the roof off the large construction project they were working on, lifted bicycles and people into the air and devastated town and fields.

         In 1973, Ida Wayan Padang took his family back to Karangasem and built a house in Abang. When I met him for the first time, he was performing with his granddaughter, Ida Ayu Basmiari, at age twelve, an accomplished Baris dancer. Never bored or boring, the man is unpredictable: he can be powerful and silent or light and whimsical. He once greeted me wearing a new half-mask that he'd been carving out of pale pule wood. His humor, his acute observation of life and his sense of the marvelous keep him young and vigorous. He picks up the sticks of his grandson's toy xylophone and plays a tune as though it were the best gangsa. He has the special ability to lose himself in the wonder of life -- a tune, a face, a great event or an insignificant, passing moment -- and transform that particular moment into something special, significant to us all.

Topeng Panca: scenario: Dalem Ukut, the tyrant of Nusa Penida, from the Babad Dalem Segining, scenario translated from Indonesian, with Ida Made Adhi Putra, copyright 1993

         In the days of the kingdom of Gelgel, the Raja Dalem Segining sent his brother, Dalem Ukut, to the island of Nusa Penida, off the southeast coast of Bali, to govern in his name. But Dalem Ukut was greedy and foolish man, heady with power and in no time at all he became the worst tyrant Nusa had ever known. He stole people's land, their rice, their wives, their houses, their coconuts. He took whatever he wanted, did just as he pleased and woe to anyone who raised an objection. Ngodagodag is Balinese for 'greedy'. That was Dalem Ukut , greed incarnate.

         Old Bendesa Nusa decided to put a stop to this tyrant, so he went to Gelgel for an audience with the Raja. Dalem Segening was furious at this embarrassment and sent his chief advisor, I Gusti Patih Jelantik to Nusa Penida, giving him an invincible kris (sword) with orders to kill Dalem Ukut. The kris, called Pecok Sahang fell to earth directly from the god Bhattara Tok Langkir, on the Great Mountain Gunung Agung.

         Patih Jelantik and his capable wife left for Nusa Penida where they met a man who reinforced the Bendesa's story in no uncertain terms. "No limits to his greed, no end to his desires. All the girls -- he takes. All the rice and coconut wine. Any objections, off with his head. No good, Dalem Ukut!

         Outraged, Patih Jelantik and his wife head for the Puri (palace) to put an end to Dalem Ukut. From dawn to dusk they battle until Dalem Ukut begs a truce, "Just long enough to party," he says, "after the feast we'll fight again."

         Patih Jelantik, exhausted and near defeat, agrees to a truce. 'Use the knife," his wife advises. 'It can't fail!' The moment Dalem Ukut sees the magical kris, he knows he's a dead man. With characteristic bravado, he begs one favor. 'Patih Jelantik,' he whines, 'you must make a great cremation for me, the biggest that Nusa has ever seen and all the ceremonies afterward -- do it all in style. I want the biggest fire Nusa has ever seen!'

         Patih Jelantik agrees and plunges the knife into the black heart of Dalem Ukut. All the people of Nusa help Patih Jelantik fulfill his promise and the cremation is the biggest ever in Nusa.

Sutasoma drama scenario, Ida Made Basma, trans. B. Anello, 1993, performance 12/22/92. Copyright 1992

         One fine morning long ago Raja Prabu Purusada, accompanied by his advisers went out and about to check the kingdom. Now this Raja was a powerful kind, admired by his enemies, respected by his advisers and loved by his people for his just and even-handed governance. But the Raja met with a little accident that day, a piece of bad luck. He slipped and fell and wedged his foot under a rock and was stuck. No one could budge the rock or free his swelling foot. In agony, the Raja screamed out for help. "I'll give the heads of a hundred rajas if only someone can get this boulder off my foot!"

         Just then the heavens resounded with an unearthly roar of laughter, "Purusada, Remember your words! I am Bhattara Kala and I accept your oath. Break your promise and I'll have your head!"

         With that the great voice was silent. Purusada's foot slipped free and off he walked a little shaken but unmarked. Secretly thrilled by the challenge he set off to war at once, picking off neighboring rajas one by one and stashing them in his prison. His bloody fight extended far and wide until he had ninety-nine kings, short just one, the final one -- the Raja of Astinapura, called Sutasoma.

         Now Sang Sutasoma was a young king already known for his invincible dharma, his just adherence to the teachings of Lord Buddha. And all his people loved him well. Sutasoma would be the final victim. When Sang Purusada attacked Astinapura, Sutasoma did nothing at all to rebuff him, nothing to defend his kingdom. Instead, he asked quietly, "Why do you want to kill me?"

         Purusada unburdened himself of the whole story, he had a promise to keep, a debt to pay. He had no choice, he must keep his word to Bhattara Kala.

         "If that's the case," Sang Sutasoma replied, "Please go ahead, take my head to fulfil your promise! Just one request: let me be the first to die. Let the other Rajas follow me. "

         The two agreed and left with the other ninety-nine to the place where Purusada heard the voice. "Here are your one hundred rajas." Purusada announced with some pride and obvious relief. "Please cut off their heads and eat your fill so that my debt may be paid. " Bhattara Kala looked down at all the lovely rajas, spread out before him like a scrumptuous feast and drooled in anticipation.

         "Start with this sweet young succulent one, Sang Sutasoma," Purusada cajoled. Bhattara Kala was only too happy to lunge forward and sink his fangs into Sutasoma's fresh young flesh, but nothing happened. No rip, no wound, no bite, no blood. In short, he couldn't do a thing to harm the young king. In a flush of recognition, he threw himself at the feet of Sang Sutasoma to worship him.

         But Sutasoma lifted him up saying, "You're a child of gods, Bhattara Kala and I'm only human. Don't go down on your knees to me." And Bhattara Kala promised to end his evil ways and follow the shining example of Sutasoma the path of dharma.

Starting Small: Kids Dance : Kumara Sari Children's Gamelan & Dance Club at ARMA& interviews with Ketut Tutur & Gusti Ayu Raka, Master Dancers & Teachers text & photos, Barbara Anello copyright 2000, published.Jakarta Post Sept 2000

         Ketut Tutur at age seventy is as spry as the twelve year olds he teaches at the Agung Rai Museum of Art . "My passport says 1935, but actually I was born in 1930," he says with a wink. "I'm getting old -- of course it doesn't show on my face, but I don't have the energy I used to have." He could fool us as he prances and postures with a group of little boys, each one serious, struggling and intent on learning Baris, the dance of the young warrior. Matching step for step, in front, in back, knocking their feet into the right stance with a quick side kick of his own, tapping their elbows up and slapping shoulders back, Pak Tutur is every bit the match of his aspiring youngsters.

         As the young Condong performing Peliatan's famed Legong Keraton dance, Gusti Niang Raka remembers, she was so supple, she could reach behind her, stretch backwards and touch the ground. Now in her 60's, and one of the Master Dancers teaching at ARMA, she's vibrant, youthful and witty. At age eleven, Gusti Niang Raka was chosen by the famous dancer Mario in 1952, to be the first to perform his new creation, Tari Oleg Tambulillingan. It took her a month to learn and within the year, the young dancer was touring Europe and North America with Anak Agung Gede Mandra' (of Peliatan's royal family) and his group of dancers and musicians. "I didn't even know all of Bali ," she laughs, "and here I was in Semarang, Jakarta, Paris and Italy. And up to my knees in snow in Montreal! " The tour lasted eight months with a demanding and difficult schedule , but within a month or two, she says, she had adjusted enough to enjoy spaghetti.

         Ketut Tutur, a master dancer, who has been dancing since age eleven and teaching for fifty years, reflects on teaching children at ARMA. "When I teach children to dance, I start with the foundation, and that's Baris for boys. After Baris, they can learn Jauk and then the various Topeng dances. I can teach girls, too. For girls, we'd start with Tari Tambulilinggan -- of course, I'm not so good at Legong! By the time they're ready for that, they should get another teacher, " he laughs.

         Gusti Niang Raka teaches Legong, Oleg and Kebyar. As a young dancer, she had the most rigerous training in the popular Arja Galuh, where a performer not only dances their part, but sings the vocals at the same time. Later she was able to perform 3 different roles in a single performance, first as the solo Condong (maidservant) in Legong; then, with wings on her arms, as the furious solo 'guwak' bird of ill-omen, also in Legong Dance, and finally, as the lovely Oleg in the duet, Oleg Tambulilingan. With her young students at ARMA, Gusti Niang Raka's objective is to instill a strong foundation in the classics. The dancers body itself must be "cocok" (suited to) the dance; then the posture, stance, position of feet, shoulders, the inimitable movements of supple fingers and expressive eyes. Quickly, she demonstrates the difference between a Denpasar- and a Peliatan -style Legong stance. Without a single movement, her body suggests a multitude of images. She can spot a budding dance talent immediately, by the eyes and the hands.

         Kumara Sari Children's Gamelan and Dance Club, started in 1998, by Agung Rai and his wife, provides a forum at Agung Rai Museum of Art in Pengosekan, Ubud, for children to learn and connect with their own culture. Traditionally, in Bali, children start early to learn dance. In fact, as babies, they are encouraged to play with the sound and rythym of the gamelan, imitating the gestures of dance. But now, in the MTV age, opportunities for this natural kind of imitation and learning are fewer. In order to strengthen the link with traditional culture from a young age, ARMA offers free dance and music classes to elementary school children. Peliatan Village, home to Agung and his wife, is renowned for the excellence of it's dancers and musicians, so it's natural to expand and enhance this resource. With a firm grounding in their traditions and pride in their culture, this new generation will bring Bali into it's future. Education, Agung Rai maintains, is the key to mastering a whole new set of challenges. Setting the highest standards for the children, the teachers of music and dance, all professionals and performers, give their energy and expertise for the daily practice sessions at ARMA. Kumara Sari at ARMA, in effect, nurtures and creates a pool of talent for future generations of performers and artists. Visitors are welcome to the sessions, scheduled from 3 to 5 every afternoon, except Sundays, when classes are held from 10am to 2pm.

         Pak Ketut Tutur's strategy for working with the children at ARMA is to teach the foundation first. "I start them with walking steps, then the posture -- how to hold the shoulders, the arms, put it together with the walking steps. Then the gestures -- 1, 2, 3, 4," he counts... "When they begin to be able to put all that into action, they're ready for more movements and more gestures. When they're comfortable with all that, we can start on the face. They have to master all of the expressions: sweet, angry, threatening, noble, biasa (just normal). Then after they're tested, they should be able to carry on alone, and when they can do that, they're ready to start practicing with a group."

         "Actually, anyone can learn to dance, " Pak Tutur says. "Age is not important, it's the mind that matters. I have students of all ages. Now, I have a 65 year old Japanese woman. It doesn't matter. It takes about a week to see if the student is "cocok" -- well matched with dancing. Sometimes we can tell right away, but you should study every day for a week . If you're any good, in two weeks, we should be able to see something happening. And in two months, you'll know if you're a dancer." So, how did you know that you were a dancer?" I asked.

         "When I was a kid in Petulu, we didn't have any school. I was working with the cows, gathering grass and so on. There was a group of dancers and musicians in Petulu, my father amongst them and I started learning dance with them . We had Barong Dance, Arja and Wayang Wong, with masks and stories from the Ramayana. We performed all around this area. Of course, then we danced for food, not for money. By the '50's I was teaching in the surrounding villages, Pisang, Timul, Bayung... When things were really difficult, I stopped dancing for awhile and went up into the mountains near Singaraja, Yeh Bang, Yeh Rambut Siwi, to try to earn a living. But I when I came back, I was dancing again. In 1969, Made Jimat (of the Gambuh Project, Batuan) was teaching here in Petulu Selatan. I continued studying with him and danced with the Batuan group for two years. I danced all over this area, with many groups -- in Pengosekan, in Peliatan, all over."

         A veteran world traveller, Ketut Tutur toured with the American Gamelan group, Sekar Jaya, spending six months in 1980 teaching and performing in Santa Cruz and Berkeley, California. He later taught in Australia and in Italy. "A little difficult," he admits, "to be away from Bali -- especially the language and the food!" He's toured Japan, Spain, Switzerland, France and England, where he performed for the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. In Switzerland, he loved the lakes and high mountains and remembers in particular,a Hindu temple high up on a mountain, where people practiced yoga. "I did a solo Topeng (masked dance) in that temple," he remembers. What's his favorite place, I ask. "Paris, it's a beautiful city." Who can argue? And how do all those places compare with Bali? "Well, life in Bali is more relaxing. Lebih senang-lah! You know, there's more time here, for talk, for friends, for whatever ...abroad it's always busy, always working. "

         Gusti Niang Raka remembers the wonder she felt on her first world tour, standing in front of Big Ben in London and seeing the great drawbridge on the Thames suddenly split in half and open to let a boat through. She brought photographs and slides back to Bali, in the early '50's a fledgling member of the new Indonesian nation, to share the world out there with her friends and family . Since those early days, her career as dancer and teacher has taken her around the world on teaching and performing tours to nearly every continent. Now, her concern is to keep the artistic and spirtual life and the natural beauty of Bali alive and intact into the future.

Postscript: When Beliau I Ketut Tutur passed away in Sept 2002, Bali lost a vivid performer, an acerbic wit and an inspired life.

 

Postscript: Budakeling

         In a small village in the east of Bali, on the slopes of Gunung Agung, the highest volcano on the island, there's a small stone house on a hill called, Puncak Sari, which had a history. I came by it because the most senior Balinese Buda Pedanda (High Priest of the Buddha sect) recommended it to me. This was Ida Pedanda Gede Wayan Datah, of Geria Krotok, Budakeling. "There's an empty house up on the hill there, Ketut," he'd told me, "why don't you see if you can stay there." So I found Made Kuduk, thePande (goldsmith) who was caretaker of this one room stone and thatch house, which had been built a decade earlier a scholar of Balinese culture and of Pura Besakih, Bali's premier temple. He had moved on years before; we never met. I mended the thatch, swept up the floor, shooed the scorpians from the stone walls, patched up the gaps in the bedeg (woven bamboo) walls, and moved in for what I thought would be no more than a brief stay. When I took over the house at Puncak Sari, I also started teaching down the hill, for Ida Bagus Dibia, of Klungkung. It was about a forty minute drive by motorbike to Candi Dasa, which at that time was still a pristine beach, with only a few locals running loesmans (small family homestays), electricity had only just come in and Aji Dibia, who was a longtime friend, had hired me to teach his staff English.

         I lived in Budakeling for a few years, between 1987 and 1993. Difficult to measure and interrupted by comings and goings, time spent there was fluid, dream time, intense, dramatic, I'd never call it idyllic, yet it had an extraordinary, matchless quality. My studies with Ida Pedanda and later, with Ida Wayan Padang's family, all dancers, educators and dalangs (shadow puppet masters), gave me a family life. I was welcome anytime at various gerias (homes), where I could help myself to rice in the kitchen, sleep over, and was pretty much regarded as a neice or granddaughter. I accompanied priests and dancers countless times to the ceremonies where they were invited to preside and perform. I could photograph as I pleased; I was treated with hospitality and generosity and lived entirely on the terms of the villagers.

         Up the hill, at Pucak Sari, the house I lived in alone had no electricity and no running water. A rain catchment well outside provided plenty of fresh water for drinking and bathing. The outhouse had a large cement catchment, filled with rainwater, for my own use and, any one who passed on their way to or from the rice fields and gardens and wanted a bath before returning down the hill to the village. My jepun trees were plundered for their flowers on a daily basis and rows of flowering gardenias seemed to bloom constantly. It's necessary to pluck flowers from the tree to use for offerings, those that have fallen to the ground are not pure enough. Of course, nothing was mine: I was a guest, respected, yet an object of relentless interest and never be just an ordinary person in the village. I was treated at times like an angel fallen from heaven, at times like a monkey, but always an object of curiosity. I woke mornings to see the squashed smiles of tiny boys, their faces pressed against the wide crack where the double doors out to the terrace were shut. "Up yet, Ketut?" they'd ask. "I am now." When empty, and it usually was empty, this house was the rendezvous point for teenage flirtations, gatherings of old men with plastic jugs of tuak, the local coconut wine, less potent than arak, a further distillation, but nonetheless the drink of choice, and a special, necessary accompaniment in this area to Cakapung, a vocal, joking chant sung among men. In fact, while I lived there, a small enclave of four or five older men accompanied by my "landlord", Made Kuduk, used to visit on some evenings bringing the red or yellow plastic jerrycan of tuac and sit with me on the Kalimantan tikar (mat), outside on the terrace overlooking the village below, the rice paddy and the sea toward Lombok in the distance. We'd discuss topics like World War II, their experiences during the Japanese occupation of Bali; the interior of an airplane, which they had never seen - what's it like to ride in one; recipes for making tatal (mud bricks widely used in traditional construction in that area); gambling games; raising cows; what the temples are like in Jawi (meaning wherever I came from, the rest of the world that is not Bali) and what people eat there, what work they do and most importantly, the cost of things and the flow of cash. These old guys provided my companionship and social life for many months.

         When I received gifts of ripe salak fruits still on the stalk, from friends in Sibetan or further up the road, the rats would help themselves in the dark by knocking the fruit off the table and dragging them off. I'd hear them in the dark, as I snuggled in bed, and eventually, I found their stash piled up in a corner. Each salak had one or two bites neatly taken out as though to taste for sweetness, before the fruit was stacked with the others to make a great pile in a dusty corner behind a wooden chest. The scorpians lived on the rock walls and outside under the cement lid of the rain catchment well, but they never bothered me. Never, that is until one night just a short time before I left that house, when I was woken from sleep by a strange sensation. Absently I plucked something from my throat and flung it away. But not before it stung my middle finger. Screaming with pain, shocked and surprised, I groped for a match, lit the kerosine lamp and found absolutely nothing, but the swelling of my finger and the intense pain lasted for a few hours before I could fall back to sleep. In the morning I found the scorpion, still alive under the bedsheets at my feet. That hurt for three days before it subsided. Not long after that, I left Budakeling to take a job in Denpasar. I was leaving one world for another. I had loved living there, but been frustrated throughout by the constant attention.

         In a decade of unparalleled growth, greed and shenanigans, Bali's fabulous success as a destination of international tourism peaked and plunged into the riot of random construction, cement block squalor, and development precipitated by the interference of so many outsiders. When I returned to Bali after the World Trades had been downed, the most repeated platitude was that it was karmic retribution. On the day of the October 2002 bombings in Kuta, I was in the U.S. on tour with a group of Balinese dancers. Shocked and stunned by the news, within twenty-four hours, our trailor, with all the costumes, gambelan instruments and personal possessions of the dancers vanished from the parking lot of a cheap motel outside Cleveland. Nothing was ever recovered, nor seen again, nor explained. Bizarre. Bali's fame, the interest and adulation of the international community and the business of tourism proved to be a double-edged experience, but of course, that is entirely in accord with Balinese principles of duality, day for night, demon and diety. Sophisticated and international, life in Bali demands a complex balance of self-invention in a society understood and experienced through multiple filters of family, village, tradition, foreign interpretation and intervention. Everything from the price of land to the nationality of one's grandchildren has been subject to the forces of radical change.

         All the attention from strangers, the adulation of Balinese art and culture is nothing new. Foreigners have come since the Dutch landed on the shores of Buleleng and Sanur in the first decade of the twentieth century. Dancers, musicians, artists, photographers, filmmakers, ethnologists,....Bobby Short, Manhattan's Café Carlyle chanteur altered Cole Porter 's lyrics slightly: You're the top, you're a Balinese dancer... thereby taking his place in the long and colourful queue of foreigners captivated by the exquisite refinement and fabulous theatricality of Balinese dance. The line ahead of him is long and we recognise some faces: Charlie Chaplin and Queen Elizabeth; -- they both enjoyed performances in 1952 when John Coast brought the dancers of Anak Agung Mandera's Peliatan group to Europe and the U.S; Miguel Covarrubias, whose gorgeous line drawings of Balinese dancers graced 1930's covers of Vogue Magazine; Walter Spies, who painted the dances and dramas; anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, whose photographic and cinematic work in Bali in the late '30's brought scholarly concerns to a wider public, and so many others. Dutch scholar Hooykaas came to Budakeling to study the holy texts with the high priests of Budda Brahmana, an esoteric group of the Balinese Brahmana caste, descendants of the Majapahit Javanese followers of Mahayana Buddhism. In fact, these were the very families in Budakeling with whom I lived. There are more Buddha Brahmana Pedandas in Budakeling than any other village on the island, many of them women. I was privileged to study with Ida Pedanda Gede Wayan Datah (b. 1913) one of the most senior, and most well-loved of the Hindu-Buddha priests, to hear his life story and explanations of texts, traditions and tales of genesis. I was lucky to travel with the Pedanda Istri (women high priests) of Budakeling to Besakih Temple for Panca Wali Krama, and spend three days and nights sleeping with them inside the most holy temple on a live volcano while the dogs howled, a furious wind wracked the trees and the gods descended.

         What was extraordinary about the island? Why is it -- as Leonard Lueras called it, "The Ultimate Island". Quite simply because the place is a plumbline to a rich, splendid, highly developed culture, still alive, functioning, evolving and retaining living traditional beliefs, as it has for centuries. It's a culture so studied, so recorded and photographed in the past century that just the name is synonomous with exoticism, globalization and all the attendant issues. Of course, the enormous influx of foreigners to the island, including Indonesians from other islands, the great numbers of cross-cultural, international marriages that have occurred over the past ten or twenty years have produced an MTV-ized generation of Balinese. The isolation that shielded Bali's unique culture is gone. Things change. . We invent and reinvent ourselves continually and with a wellspring of creativity, wit and showmanship the Balinese invariably improvise something extraordinary.

         I left Budakeling and made the first drawings for the dancers of that village, who had given me so much. The series continued, with more than four hundred drawings of Balinese and Javanese dancers and musicians, a project that kept me working for a decade.