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Page 9

Little Legong of Bali

the dancer is tense

her fingers are trembling

vibrations are spreading

her bare feet flat on the ground

flexing her knees

how lively she dances

moving so briskly

winding in and out of a circle

with arms outstretched

and fingers that flutter

the gamelan calls

she stamps in agreement

quivering faster and faster

involuntary seizures

spreading to thigh and to hip

her entire body is quaking

with violence such

that the headdress is shaking

and sweet smelling flowers are fleeing in fright

the spell breaks so quickly

she glides now so swiftly

side steps going this way and that

such flexible swayings

arms sharply patterned at wrists and at elbows

without ever ceasing

she picks up the fan from the matting

and continues with one in each hand

in her elegant winding stride

quick little steps and postures

shrill flutters and snaps

arms akimbo

shoulders shimmer

eyes darting and fleeing

bound richly in brocade

from bodice to hip

a bright shining chrysalis

in hues gold and dark green.

her fan flicks in anger

eyes staring in fright

she is coaxing and teasing

petite and alluring

exquisite young nymph of the night

 

Bali is famous for its exuberance in dance. Dancing is an integral part of Balinese life and most dances have religious significance and depict many of the famous epics from the mythological Hindu stories. Every village has a gamelan and dance group and they perform a variety of dances at festivals and ceremonies. Nearly every gamelan and dance group perform different variations on the same theme. Most performances take place at night.

Balinese dances exhibit a great love of drama and theatre. It is a highly stylised dance technique. There is a combination of dance, music, acting and singing in almost every performance. The Legong, is perhaps, the most famous and popular of all the dances performed in Bali. It is a dance performed by three dancers, two Legongs and the attendant, the Condong. The Legong dancers are pre-pubescent girls. They are bound from head to foot in green and gold brocade, which restricts movements. Therefore, the movements performed by these dancers are very stylised.

The Legong dance tells the story of princess Rangkesari, taken captive by the king of Lasem who wants to make her his queen. However, princess Rangkesari is betrothed to another and spurns his advances. Rangkesari’s brother seeks to release her from captivity and begs the king to let her go, rather than have to face a war. The king refuses and later dies in the ensuing battle.

A Legong dancer is known as a ‘Legong’. Such importance is placed on this dance that a great Legong dancer will be remembered even in old age.

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