According to the Babad Dalem, a legendary history of the kings of Gelgel and Klungkung, Dalem Gede Kusamba, the King of Klungkung between 1775 and 1825 ordered his chief dancers to create a new form of dramatic dance using the royal collection of sacred masks, and the repertoire for the new genre was to be taken from the Ramayana epic.
He directed the dancers to create a Wayang Wong, a dance based on the Wayang (shadow puppet) theatre using men in place of puppets. The direction to the choreographers that the Ramayana be taken for subject matter was especially apt, in the light of old exorcist associations accompanying masks of the Wayang Wong type.
The Ramayana story lends itself very well to ceremonies for frightening or otherwise driving away buta, for the epic tells of the defeat of the King of the buta (Rahwana) along with his entire army of ogres and imps. The good party in the story furthermore is made up for the most part of 'monkeys'. Who are the followers of the hero Ramadewa.
These monkeys are no mere simians - many of them are hybrid creatures resulting from intermarriage of a monkey with a tiger, for example, or a bird, or a cow. The monkeys in Wayang Wong are mythical beings, in them ancient Balinese protectors in the form of benevolent mythical animals survive in thin diguise.
Dalem Gede Kusamba's artists created a vocabulary of movement drawn from the various Sang Hyang genres. Unlike the simple realistic mimicry of monkey movements seen in Barong Kedingkling, in Wayang Wong the hopping, jumping, scratching and looking-around movements are stylized and choreographed. They have been transformed from pantomime into dance.
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