On Saturday, January 16, 2016, I attended “Chandra Wirabhauana”, a traditional Balinese dance performance accompanied by live orchestra music. Set in the beautiful outdoor environment of Taman Pura Saraswati Temple’s Lotus Pond in Ubud, Bali, Chandra Wirabhuana was formed in 2000 and performs Balinese music and dance every week at the Lotus Pond. The orchestra consisted of 16 musicians playing a variety of instruments, including gamelan, flute, percussion, gong, and cymbals.
The show began with “Tabuh Liar Samas”, an instrumental piece whose composition was inspired by the beautiful beaches of Kuta in Southern Bali. This was followed by “Tari Penyambutan”, an introductory dance piece similar to a pushpanjali from Indian classical dance repertoire. The three graceful female dancers entered holding plates filled with flower offerings, which they later showered onto the audience.
The third item was “Kebyar Duduk”, a powerful solo number characterized by dynamic hand and body gestures and sharp eye movements. The male dancer used a fan and flowing cloth from his outfit throughout the dance.
The fourth piece called “Legong Semarandhana” was in the Legong style of dance. It began with pure dance movements, followed by the Hindu tale of Manmatha and his wife Ratih. Manmatha and Ratih are sent to break Lord Shiva’s meditation and do so by striking him with an arrow. In the Balinese version of this tale, when Lord Shiva awakens, he opens his third eye and burns the couple to flames. In this dance, it was very interesting to see a slightly different version of a Hindu story portrayed in a unique style of dance.
“Oleg Tamulilingan”, the fifth item, was a duet describing the courtship between two bumblebees. Representing a Balinese love story, this piece was full of sringara abhinaya and was characterized by cute duet moments and poses.
Following the bumblebee courtship was “Topeng Tua”, or the Mask Dance. It is typically performed for religious functions and the dancer wearing the mask typically portrays demons or other evil spirits.
The performance ended with a vibrant number titled “Tari Satya Brasta”. It was based on an excerpt from the Mahabharata in which Karna fights and kills Gatotkacha on the Kurukshetra battlefield. The intricate formations and unique usage of props by all 6 male dancers in this piece was simply phenomenal!
There are many similarities between Balinese dance and styles of Indian classical dance. For example, Balinese dance has certain stances, as well as large, dynamic eye movements, that are similar to Kathakali and Mohiniattam. At the same time, the delicate hand gestures and soft footwork are reminiscent of Manipuri. It is evident that a lot of body control is required to master any style of Balinese dance, be it Legong or Kecak. The musical orchestra complemented the mood of all the dance pieces very well, exaggerating and subduing as appropriate to the story being told. The outdoor setting of Taman Pura Saraswati’s Lotus Pond, while prone to mother nature’s whims and fancies if it decides to rain, is absolutely beautiful, and allows visitors to watch a culturally rich performance beneath the moon and stars.
Definitely don’t miss out on this show if visiting Bali! Chandra Wirabhuana performs every Saturday at 7:30pm in Taman Pura Saraswati in Ubud, Bali. You will certainly be in for a treat!