This masked dance is later developments than Gambuh and a product of the seventeenth and eighteenth century Hindu-Balinese courts which evolved in the capital cities of Gelgel and Klungkung.
The use of at least one sacred mask and/or head-dress is an essential part of every 'Bebali' performance. The masked themselves, which are now regarded as too sacred to photograph, are of two types.
The first one, and probably the oldest, is represented by six masks covering the full face with a mouthpiece on the inside of the mask which provides a means for the dancer to hold it between clenched teeth while dancing. This type is not used at all on Bali.
The remaining masks, fifteen in number, are more similar in style to modern Balinese masks, which held to the dancer's face by means of an elastic band.
The distinguishing aspect of Topeng Pajegan is that it is a monodrama, a single dancer tells a story by portraying a succession of masked characters, one after the other. The word 'pajegan' comes from terminology used in purchasing rice; when someone buys a crop of paddy as a whole, he is said to 'majeg' the crop.
With the help of a few simple theatrical conventions the soloist is able to tell an intricate and engrossing story. Topeng Pajegan is by far the most dramatic of the bebali dance forms; in none of the others are the intricacies of the narrative of much interest to either dancer or audience.
The stories presented are always taken from the chronicles of Balinese history and deal with the semi legendary feasts of the Hindu-Balinese kings and their ministers. The story presented on a particular occasion is chosen by the dancer according to the needs and desires of the sponsor.
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