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Balinese Dance, Drama, and Music  

by on Thursday, 10 May 2007No Comment | 10,544 views

In Bali, dance, drama and music are important part of a ritual or religious ceremony. It is an offering to God. Dancers and actors offer their best performances; musicians play their best melody all for God amusement. Balinese believe that like human, God loves to see beautiful dances, superb drama performance and excellent music. It is the duty of the dancers, artists and musician to sacrifice their talents.


With rare exception, Balinese dance, drama, and music are functional arts, not art for art’s sake. All the drama and music performed, created or composed collectively, all choreography and all dances are ultimately rooted in religion. There is no major religious event, which is not accompanied by music, dance or theater; sometimes they are considered as a compulsory part of a ritual cycle.

According to their respective position and function within the ceremony or the extent of their secularization, the diverse forms of dramatic and musical art can be classed into three categories, which, according to Balinese classification will be referred to as wali, bebali and balih-balihan.


Wali is includes ritual forms of music, ritual dances and sacrificial dance that are performed as an integral part of temple ritual or harvest festival. In other words, wali dances can and may only be executed as a part of a ritual sacrifice. The best-known examples of this category are the rejang, pendet, baris and to a certain extent, some sanghyang dances are also in this category.



Bebali is made up of musical forms, dramatized dances and theatrical performances that though accompanying various ceremonies are not necessarily connected with the rituals. As kind of courtly ancestral ritual, they are more frequently performed in temples where they are given as an obligatory or at least desirable addition to the rites of passage while the priest is busy officiating ceremony. The bebali performances should only take place within a framework of a ceremony and not as a profane entertainment at a ritually unsuitable time. The important examples of this category are wayang lemah (daylight shadow puppet performance) and topeng (mask play).


Balih-balihan consists of all secular form of music and dance which can be performed independently of a ceremony, for instance for a paying audience or foreign guests. In many cases, old ritual connection is still recognizable, for example kecak choruses, which go back to forms of the sanghyang dance. The popular examples of balih-balihan are legong keraton, kecak, baris melampahan (baris with story).

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