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Of all the classical Balinese dances, Legong is perhaps most familiar to western audiences. Delicate, refined, and very intricate, the dance is performed by two or three pre-adolescent girls.

The little dancers wear instinctive head dresses and costumes as they perform a highly abstract dance drama to the accompaniment of an old and sweet-sounding musical ensemble, the gamelan pelegongan.

Legong is the oldest of the balih-balihan dances. An interesting account of the origin, which must have occurred around the turn of the 19th century, is given in the Babad Dalem Sukawati, a genealogical chronicle of the Princess of Sukawati.

At first, a group directed by I Gusti Ngurah Jelantik created a new dance in a style similar to Sang Hyang Legong (Masked Sang Hyang Dedari dance), called nandir. The dancers were young boys and masks were not used.

Nandir was seen by the King of Gianyar, who was so much impressed by it that he commissioned a pair of artists from Sukawati to choreograph a similar dance for young girls of his court.

The result of their efforts was the basis for legong as we know it today. The creator of Legong worked with both wali and bebali elements in developing the new form. The basic musical and choreographic structures derive from Gambuh, while the source of the vocabulary of movements can be found in the Sang Hyang Dedari tradition.

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