Balinese Dance: A Captivating Tradition
Balinese dance captures one's attention immediately as the dancers move to tell ancient stories through physicality and props. The picture below shows a young Balinese dancer in her costume with a flower-covered headdress and expressive fan. This photograph hangs in the Seacology office, taken in 2002 during an expedition to visit a Seacology-funded wastewater garden at Tirtagangga Water Palace. Every time I walk past the picture, I am captivated by the young girl's seriousness, her eyes so intent, her motion captured like that in so many Indian sculptures.
Balinese dance, music, and ceremonies are offerings to Hindu deities and tell the ancient epic stories of the Hindu religion. As a former hula dancer, I enjoy art forms that pass along stories, be they through oral history, art, music, or dance. The combination of message and movement is fascinating to me and so important to passing along traditions to future generations.
In June I saw a dance performance featuring Gadung Kasturi, a Bay Area dance group committed to preserving and promoting the traditions of Balinese music and dance in the Bay Area. The elaborate costumes were beautiful and expressive, and the group also performed in this year's San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. I was interested to read that each piece of the dancer's costume symbolizes different aspects of the Balinese ethos, and I am impressed by the intricacies of each dance, from the physical form of movement and costume to its storytelling and meaning.
This week Seacology Executive Director Duane Silverstein is leading an expedition to Bali. Travelers will attend the opening ceremony of a Seacology-funded project providing a multipurpose building to be used for music (including storage for the gamelan, the traditional Balinese orchestra), dance, and a library. In exchange for this community assistance, the people of Sarinbuana Village are protecting the 1,975-acre permanent no-take rainforest reserve. Seacology projects not only preserve island biodiversity; they ensure that the cultural traditions, like Balinese dance, will continue to thrive for generations to come.