Dream or Reality (30)
Funny (trance?) dance
text and image by Hans Smeekes
“How was your day today?” Tu Kodok, the frog asks, sitting like the other nights at the window next to his friend Tu Tokeh, the gecko, who just finished his remarkable sound, eleven times, like always, as announcement of our midnight meeting in the palace.
“Today we went to a litlle village in the area of Penebel. A friend lives there and invited us. Specially because today is ‘tilem’ (new moon) and he told us there is a ceremony in the village temple with as ‘highlight’ some ladies going in trance dancing.
‘Good for filming’, he told us, being just as an enthusiastiac filmer like me,” I answered the question about our experience today.
“Nice environment, Penebel,” Tu Tokeh reacts.
“Yes already the trip to this village was nice, passing the many rice paddies,” Fifi remarks.
And I continue sittting next to Fifi on the romantic fourposter: “After we arrived in the one street village, first I went with my friend into the surrounding ricefields, for which we had to go down a slippery path, reason for Fifi not to go with us.
A fantastic landscape unfolded. I told my friend what our driver always is saying in such circumstances: ‘ Good for the eyes.’ And so it was with the scenery of the terraced rice fields above the wild river, with a lot of noise, trying to find its way between the rocks.
It started to rain a little bit and we were singing ‘Singing in the rain’, which we altered almost directly in ‘Singing in the ricefields’.
After a great lunch, offered by the Balinese family, sitting on the veranda, with sight on the real Balinese courtyard, with the chickens, cocks, dogs and an old lady sitting under the ‘lumbung’ (ricebarn), we went down to the temple. In fact the small road went over in the concrete steps down. Our friend was so nice to help Fifi. No Balinese temple gate this time. Just a big tree, near the river, with shrines underneath. At the right a small simple gate where priests were going in and out.
It was already crowded with people under the balé on the left side, in front of the tree, mostly women with children, waiting for what was to come. The gamelan orchestra was just arriving. And also Jero Mangku, the most important priest. Our friend introduced us to him. A friendly skinny man, in his forties I think, with a small dark beard, with his inseparable kretek cigarette, because I noticed later he was all the time smoking.
Our friend told us people come from far for his advice. So also now. I saw people coming down with many offerings. One family after the other was going inside the small temple. I saw the female assistent priests, completely in white, going into trance for the answers, for which the people come. After that they got blessed with the holy water.
The local people under the balé were just waiting, they were clearly used to it and were using the time for some chatting, which we did also. Fifi had a good contact with a lady, they could not speak with each other in the same language, but with hands and feet, they had good time.
The ceremony started with the usual rituals of praying and blessing. And then the dancing part started. Here we came for. Our friend told us that these women had no education at all concerning dancing. When he showed them the videos of the dancing, which he made another time, they were very surprised they could do that.
But my thinking is: They are Balinese, even having had no dancing education, they must have it in their blood, in their genes.
I saw at the other side of the wall in the small temple one of the ladies taking out of a box a white mask. It was really starting. I was waiting on the ground before the big tree, which was like a small stage. The people getting excited. And the gamelan made the first tones. The woman was shaking with her head with the mask on, standing for the priest with his kretek cigarette.
Then she came out and indeed made the movements, as far as I can judge, which are appropriate for the dancing. I followed the movements with my camera. And following in this way I got almost in a kind of trance myself. Which is not new for me, I had this before, touched as I am by the dancing. It is like going in another world. So also this afternoon. After ten minutes another older woman took over. Also she stated she cannot dance normally.
She danced without mask, but with a straight face, showing not any emotion.
And then the funny one showed up. Already her mask was funny. She had a lot of interaction with the public. A lot of laughter. I had the impression the people came for this. From a certain moment she was starting making movements as she were a frog. Jumping as a frog on the floor.
“A frog?” our little friend Tu Kodok, jumps up enthusiastically.
“Yes and while jumping she came very close to me, everyone was laughing, it was like she was inviting me to join the dance, doing the same, but I didn’t, doubting it was appropriate. I asked it later to Jero Mangku, in fact it is no problem, so maybe if we come back one time, I might join in.
“Wow, that is remarkable,” Tu Kodok reacts again, “so you want to imitate me, maybe I can learn you next time when we meet, because now we have to go, our time is finished.”
Fifi and I are looking at each other.
Dream or reality?
See on youtube: “Funny Trance Dancing Bendul” and the many other videos by Hans Smeekes