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Rejang Dance at Tenganan  

by on Monday, 2 July 2007One Comment | 4,090 views

On Thursday, 6/28/2007, my boss and I had the rare opportunity to witness the Rejang dance at Banjar temple in ancient Tenganan village. Pak Mangku, the community leader of Tenganan, told us that the Rejang performance will start at 4 P.M so at 3.30 we went to the Banjar temple, but as any other areas in Bali, the concept of “punctuality” was definitely unknown here.


The dancers arrived in the temple at 5 P.M, dozens of girls in their finest attires walked slowly to the temple. The procession of these beautiful maidens was an attraction by itself; dressed in sacred gringsing clothes with gold flower crowns, and other gold accessories, bright colored sashes wrapped around their hips; these young girls walked majestically in the soft light of sunset guarded by their parents or brothers. They gathered in the middle courtyard of the Banjar temple, waited for the village’s musicians. The musicians appeared one by one in their Sunday-best clothes and took their position in the gamelan pavilion.



As soon as the musician began to play the Rejang melody; the dancers take their position in the center of middle courtyard of the temple. They stood in three lines, the younger dancers stood in the front while the older one lined up behind them. My boss and I waited patiently for the dance to begin but after 10 minutes of waiting, the dancers still did not show any sign of dancing movement, the dancers just stood still in the center of courtyard; some are playing idly with their sashes.



First, we thought that the musicians played the introducing melody but after another 10 minutes of waiting with no indications of dance movement from the dancers; we were sure that the melody was not introducing melody, it was too long for an introduction. We were puzzled, fortunately, Pak Mangku, the community leader, was around, so we asked him, ‘Pak Mangku when will the rejang begin?’ his answer was very surprising, ‘the dance is on, it’s about to finish in no time.’ The dance was finished right after Pak Mangku finished answering our question.



We were surprised; we have seen Rejang dance before in other areas of Bali, we expected to see the slow and elegance movement of Rejang, smooth movements of the feet combine with hands movements as soft as caressing breeze. But this Rejang was an exception; the dancers just stood in lines and played idly with their sashes. Pak Mangku told us that the movements of this Rejang consist of holding, lifting and dropping the sash that is wrapped around the dancer hips with the left hand. So there were movements but the moved sporadically, it was looked like the dancers were playing with their sashes. My boss told me that we always have to expect the unexpected in Tenganan, even for a Balinese.



The Rejang was finished but Pak Mangku told us to stay, a trance dance was scheduled after the Rejang dance. Five minutes later, the musicians played another melody, the Rejang dancers gathered once again in the center of the middle courtyard of the temple. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a priestess with her attendance appeared among the Rejang dancers, the entranced priestess dance hand in hand with her attendance while the Rejang dancers shouted to them. The attendant handed a tray of offering to the priestess and retreated behind the onlookers. With her eye closed and hand clutched tightly on the tray of offering the priestess danced madly in the center of the courtyard.

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Suddenly, a cry was heard among the onlookers, a priest came out brandishing a kris, stepped into the center of the courtyard and danced side by side with the priestess. The entranced priest sometimes with all his strength stabbed his chest with the kris or tried to cut his hand, but no wound inflicted. The Rejang dancers shouted louder when the priest stabbed himself, the priestess kept on dancing with the tray of offering in her hand.

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After stabbing himself for the third times, the priest retreated to the inner courtyard of the temple. His place was taken by another entranced priestess; the second priestess was given a tray of offering and danced side by side with the first one. After dancing for a while both of them were ushered to the inner courtyard. Unfortunately we had no opportunity to witness the performance of the entranced priest and priestesses in the inner courtyard. Soon after the priestesses were escorted to the inner courtyard the musicians played a closing melody and the “unexpected” Rejang of Tenganan was over.


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