The Dance of Rangda
Out of hundreds Balinese dances maybe the dance of Rangda is the only dance that does not need a great technical ability of dancing, it needs only a courage and high confidence on the spirit of the deity who resides in the sacred mask of Rangda. Few of the men who dare to wear the great head and padded Rangda costume have had any knowledge on dance technique, since Rangda does not need to keep time to the music which is essential in Balinese dance.
When the Rangda appears, she advances into the dancing area with high pouncing step and stops, cackling. Then she arches backwards, shrieking with high, piercing laughter. Her hands flutter and her long fingernails rattle together. She waves in one hand a magical white cloth with secret “power” symbols drawn on it. When the sacred mask is not in use, it is wrapped in this powerful kerchief.
Far more important than technical ability of dancing for the man who dances Rangda is spiritual power; he must be a magically powerful man or a priest. Whenever the Rangda mask appears in public, great magical forces are unleashed among the onlookers and the other dancers, and many in the crowd may become almost automatically entranced. The association between Rangda and falling into trance is so close, in fact, in some villages if someone goes into trance for any reason, Rangda will be sent for, if she is not already present. Certain dancers, all men of great spiritual strength, have made specialty of playing Rangda, and are called when a village wishes to sponsor a performance in which the mask will be worn by visiting specialist.
The sacredness of Rangda mask is not a matter of appearance, for this face, regarded as visual motif, is commonly used in many secular applications in Bali. Indeed, the mask-makers feel no reservation about making perfect copies of the sacred Rangda masks to sell to tourists or other. What gives the mask its power is the consecration it receives from the maker, the sacred letters inscribed within it, the holy wood it is made from, and the power of taksu and pasupati it receives in the temple or graveyard. A holy mask literally manifests the divinity, and whenever one is introduced into a performance, the unpredictable can always happen.
The materials for this writing are taken from I Made Bandem and Fredrik Eugene deBoer’s Balinese Dance in Transition