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A Balinese Folktale: The Origin of Balinese Dance  

by on Sunday, 30 September 2007One Comment | 1,649 views

Long, long time ago Balinese dance was not as rich as today, there was no beautiful Legong, nor dramatic topeng, Balinese could only boast of trance dance such as Sanghyang Memedi or Sanghyang Dedari, no conscious dance existed.

One day Kaki Semara observed some little girls who were dancing, completely in trance, without ever having had dancing instruction. A Sanghyang they sometimes had to serve as a repository for god in the temple, when he deigned to take his place within them. They were not yet approaching puberty, lived a chaste and pure life and were therefore holy, which made them suitable for this task.

Though Kaki Semara was impressed by the girls, he wondered how their dance could be made more conscious and artistic. And he decided to make it more concentrated in parts by having the girls dance a particular pattern twice instead of ten times in a row and adding new, enhancing dance accents unknown up to that time. He was so pleased with the results that he continued to look for elements that would make the dance even richer in movement.

As he was convinced that he would find such elements in the animal world, he went into the forest to observe wild bullocks, elephants, deer, lions, birds, and butterflies. One wild bullock that was about to start grazing was terrified by the sight of Kaki Semara and froze in a position which lent itself exactly to one basic pose of the basic poses (agem lembu anongo) of Baris dance. The elephant gait was transferred to the girls dance as tampak liman. Swallows and butterflies inspired Kaki Semara to create the floating and nearly fluttering gait (ngumbang and nyeregseg) so characteristic of girl’s dancing.

Tired from his work, Kaki Semara lay down in the forest to sleep. All at once he heard the voice of Aeolian harps, high bamboo trunks that sang in the wind like flutes and suggested to him the pentatonic music scale (sunaren) that was to accompany his new choreography from then on. And Kaki Semara fell asleep. The orchestra which first used the sunaren scale was called Semar Pegulingan, The Place Where Semar Sleep.

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