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In the Edge of Extinction: Janger Dance  

by on Thursday, 1 November 2007One Comment | 3,459 views

It is rather difficult to trace the origin of Janger. No place in Bali admits to having been responsible for the first janger. The north Bali says it came from south, the south attributed to north. If Bali makes Lombok responsible, Lombok says it learnt from Bali. Some expert said that the janger is derived from Sanghyang dance. The female and male choirs were taken away from Sanghyang Dedari and formed new composition. Some said that janger originated from the song of girls, who picked coffee beans from the trees in North Bali. When they were sitting together during their break in the work, they began to sing together, joined by a few boys and it developed into janger. Other said it was the Balinese answer for Sumatran Rampak Sembilan dance.

Janger dance performance on The Annual Bali Arts Festival 1996

The popularity of this art performance reached its peak in 1960s, when nearly every village and every school in Bali has its own janger group. In that time becoming a successful janger dancer was the dream of every youth. They hummed the janger song all day long, accompanying all their activities.

Janger dance performance on The Annual Bali Arts Festival 1996

Janger is performed by a group of boys and girls. The boys are usually sitting in two row facing each other and the girls are sitting in another two rows, so that they form a square, in some performance the square formation is substituted with two row formation in which the girls occupy the front row while the boys on the back. The boys are sitting cross-legged, while uttering ejaculated sound and doing intricate hand movements which are derived from pencak silat (traditional martial art) movements. The girls are kneeling and singing a janger song while dancing and making weaving patterns with their hands. The janger performance is usually accompanied by geguntangan orchestra.

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Janger dance performance on The Annual Bali Arts Festival 1996

What is quite unique and produce diverse opinion on janger is not the dance but the costume of the dancers. At first, the costume of the girls was the Balinese sarong and a bodice, and the boys wore sarongs and Balinese headdresses. But with the time the girls changed their costumes to European clothes, even wearing stockings and shoes. The boys changed their sarong to khaki uniforms with apulets and pasted or painted moustache and even dressed as boy scouts. Early writer such as Hickman Powell and Covarrubias agreed that janger is an unbalinese dance.

Janger dance performance on The Annual Bali Arts Festival 1996

The rapid spreading of janger in 1960s which swept the entire island so quickly made most Balinese share the same thought that janger would not last long, and it is true. After 1965, most of the janger groups vanished from the community. Only a few are left which still perform for tourist in Denpasar.

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Janger dance performance on The Annual Bali Arts Festival 1996

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