Condong is a traditional dance of Bali. If you have visited Bali or lived here for a time, then the deep-rooted connection between dance and Balinese life is not foreign to you. You may associate it with the elaborate costumes, the minor keys of gamelan music or the intricate rituals at the Temple. You may be reminded instead, of a performance in a hotel lobby or a restaurant. In one way or another, in present-day Bali, the Balinese dance is something greatly associated with Balinese culture.
The Ancient Art of Dance
It is rightly so, as dance is an ancient art that is intrinsic to Balis’ creative spirit. One of the many forms of worship its people offer to the Creator. This is something we have in common with many cultures across the world. Forms of traditional dance are a natural and perhaps inevitable manifestation of human creativity. Modelled and tempered to embody our thoughts and philosophies.
Traditional dance in Bali, Tari Bali is an incredible course of study. It can hypnotise you, it can frighten you and it can bewitch you. Balinese dance is an ancient traditional performance art that reenacts, safeguards and connects ancestral legacies to future generations. Changes that happen within the dance, or how a society chooses to interpret the dance is something that also reflects contemporary factors and conditions about our collective identity as a whole. There are contemporary versions of Balinese dance that have emerged due to popular demand and these contemporary variations tend to be freer with movements that would not be acceptable in the strictly traditional form.
The significance of Balinese dance is no small thing. There are three genres of Balinese traditional dance recognised as intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco as of November 2015. The three genres of Balinese dance recognised are Wali (sacred dances), Bebali (semi-sacred dances) and Balih-balihan (dances for entertainment purposes). There are nine dances altogether that are represented by these three genres.
Balinese Dances Listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO
From Wali (Sacred Daances) they include Rejang from Klungkung District, Sanghyang Dedari from Karangasem and Baris Upacara. From Bebali (Semi Sacred Dances) Topeng Sidhakarya/Topeng Pajegan from Tabanan district, Gambuh dance drama from Gianyar and Wayang Wong dance drama from Buleleng. From the Balih Balihan (Entertainment dances), they include Legong Kraton from Denpasar City, Joged Bumbung from Buleleng and Barong Ket from Badung district.
A Little About Tari Condong
Condong (Balinese: ᬘᭀᬦ᭄ᬤᭀᬂ) is a Balinese dance that is often performed as a preface to legong and accompanied by the semar pangulingan style of gamelan. it is believed to originally be part of the Legong Keraton.
Tari Condong is believed to originate sometime in the 19th century in the palaces of Bali. Though its creator is unknown. Folk history suggests the prince of Sukawati was once very ill and saw a vision of two beautiful girls dancing accompanied by the gamelan music. When he recovered, it is said that the prince recreated the dance that he had seen. There had been some modifications since it emerged, but the current performances depict the role of a maidservant who is in awe of the King’s power and of the beauty of the King’s daughter.
When a Dance carries such a monumental heritage, its substance is often disconnected from a much larger audience. Those who study the culture and its arts and are dancers themselves have a deeper well of understanding of the art. Perhaps relating to the dancer is a good way to appreciate the dance. A human element that we can all understand.
Sri Apriani, a Collaboration.
We met Sri Apriani as part of the team at Basabali Wiki earlier in the year. Basabali Wikis’ mission as a community digital platform has numerous achievements in the support of local culture, art and language. I found out not that long ago that Sri, apart from being a Social Media Co-Ordinator for Basabali Wiki, is also a state-level award winner traditional dancer. She has performed three times at the Bali Arts Festival in the Gong Kebyar event. In addition to dance, she is also competitive in the vocal field, namely Sekar Agung or Kekawin. Awarded 1st place in Bali several times and 1st place in Nationals in 2021.
A Passionate Dedication to Dance
A new generation are living a digital age, whilst still carrying an incredible cultural legacy in their everyday lives. The traditional dance demands an immense amount of energy, discipline and dedication. It speaks of the strength and talent of many young Balinese today who are forging paths in their careers whilst continuing still their love of the traditional arts.
A Conversation with Sri Apriani
Sri Apriani was kind to give her time and share her experiences in sharing with us Tari Condong. She chose to perform Tari Condong as the first traditional dance of Bali, for a collaboration with Sawidji. In addition to performing the dance in Sawidji Studio, she was also happy to explore a series of fine art portraits with me.
Dancing with Resolve and Fortitude
“Tari Condong is a foundational dance and it is the dance that I participated in for my first competition… it is a dance that is dynamic that is quick. I like fast dances.. because my mother’s training is very firm, so my spirit for dance is very intense. When I get to learn a fast-moving dance I love it. I’m not as drawn to repetitive and slow dances. I feel challenged by the movements and the energy that is required of this dance..”
Memories of a Dancer
“The Condong dance has its own story from other dances that I have learned. This dance has taught me the meaning of not giving up. Because I once failed to perform this dance in a competition. I was not discouraged. I took it as the start of my struggle. My next competition was no longer the Condong Dance competition, but another dance and was awarded a Talented Dancer Award in 2006.”
“In 2011 I was allowed to audition for Bali Art Festival. I passed the dance selection representing Badung. My enthusiasm continued to grow, I fought very well and responsibly because it was a rare opportunity for a dancer like me.“
“The world of Traditional Balinese Dance begins for Balinese children sometimes even younger than 5 years old. They will continue to dance until the end of high school. Those that pursue dance as a career will continue further study as an option. If not they will continue to dance as part of ‘ngayah‘ at Temple or as a part-time employment.“
“When I was in college, I took the International Business Management study program at Politeknik Negeri Bali, but I didn’t forget the dance. Whatever I am studying, It always goes hand in hand with art, because it is in the art that I can unwind and work through the problems I’m facing.”
Condong, The Energy of Inclination
The name of the dance featured here is ‘Condong’. A little off the beaten track, is the definition of the word ‘Condong’. Not in relation to the dance, but the dictionary meaning in Bahasa Indonesia means ‘incline towards’. It means a predisposition or tendency towards something. This other meaning of this word brought to my mind some passing reflections. As a dancer, Sri Apriani is inclined towards energetic dances. The dance Condong depicts a maidservant who is inclined to move quickly in order to please the King.
I talk about the energy of inclination from two different perspectives. The energy of the dance and a more philosophical observation about human inclinations. On the whole, we are inclined to avoid hardships. We are inclined towards beauty and pleasure.
Inclination vs Awareness
We are inclined towards gratification. There are many things that propel us forward very quickly because of our inclinations. Whether it is positive behaviours or negative ones we are driven by predispositions. When we acquire enough awareness then we begin to deliberate and choose. Perhaps without awareness, we are servants to our inclinations.
Condong. More than an Inclination
Traditional Balinese dance is not an artistic skill you can acquire out of a half-hearted inclination. It takes great fortitude and discipline. Not to mention many, many years of practice, to execute this art form with mastery. And the times we are in are undeniably a time more inclined towards faster, easier past times and interests. However, even if we are not living as traditional dancers or specialists of art, it is worthwhile to fight the inclination to overlook it. To resist our inclination of inattention. To spend a little time studying a little closer. Perhaps then, the wonder of the dance can reach us and a form of true appreciation begins.
Towards a Worthy Inclination
It is even more pertinent, in knowing the value of traditional dance and its cultural significance, to not disregard the impacts of commercialisation. Ramifications of commercial culture on the authenticity of the traditional dance in Bali. When we remain inattentive and careless, incremental changes occur and go unnoticed. Before you realise it, there are important things that were forgotten. And the majority will not know what was lost. Audience perception is a big part of this. Even as an audience we contribute to nurturing heritage.
When a culture has become a desirable commodity with a high transactional value in tourism marketing. Shifts in social and cultural boundaries occur in a very hazy environment. In hindsight, being the only opportunity to view its effects with any clarity. Let’s be inclined to be aware of the changes around us. And perhaps where possible, keep our cultural integrity true.
Thank you to Sri Apriani for sharing her love and passion for the traditional dance of Bali. Looking forward to future collaborations featuring other traditional dances.
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