Monday, February 7, 2011

Central Java: A Tale of Two Ramayanas

Indonesia - Tamansari Solo Dancer
Javanese Dance at the Sultan's Palace
It doesn't take a culturati or dance expert to appreciate the primal yet poetic beauty and fluid grace of Javanese dance.  We caught two different performances on consecutive days and both were far removed from all those mad gyrations and mindless acrobatics being passed off as art/dancing/entertainment on global TV.

Indonesia - Ramayana Ballet Sita Reemerges
Ramayana Ballet: Sita Re-emerges
Ballet after dark.  We spent sunset at Prambanan on our first day in Java so catching the Ramayana Ballet at the open air theater became but a natural inclination.  As expected, the pomp, pageantry and drama were there.  But I was also drawn to the athleticism of the performers where the male leads displayed impressive marksmanship with their bows and arrows.  I guess the audience agreed with me as they audibly gasp every time each arrow flew into the air and roared with loud approval when it found its mark.
Indonesia - Ramayana Ballet Attackers
Ramayana Ballet: Colorful Costumes and Athletic Performances
Schooled on the classics.  Arriving on a weekend gave us the opportunity to see another Ramayana performance.  Come Sunday morning, we caught the rehearsal of the Kraton Classical Dance School at the Sultan's Palace.  Ironically, I find the students' performance better -- the movements more refined, the costumes more elegant.  Even without the smoke and elaborate lighting like those of its ballet counterpart, I found the students' interpretation much more impressive.  The incredible thing is that this performance is for free (only the entrance fee to the palace is charged plus an extra for photography).  The live accompaniment of the gamelan alone is well worth the entrance charge.
Indonesia - Tamansari Dancers
Kraton Classical Dance School Students prepares for a performance
With the continued Westernization of Asia, it's simply refreshing to experience something as timeless, something as far removed from Western culture as this.  So much so that it makes me yearn to see something like this unabashedly proud presentation of the local culture back home in the Philippines, not just as a show for tourists but as a continuing process of learning the classics and appreciating one's heritage for the next generation.

Info: Ramayana Ballet fees depend on where one seats in the open air theater in Prambanan.  We got second row seating at the center for Rp150,000 (around Php750/US$16) plus Rp30,000 (about Php150/US$3) for photography (videography fees are higher) • To go to Prambanan by public transport, ride the bus at Giwangan just inside the city ring road in Jogja

Indonesia - Jogjakarta Water Palace Barong and Blue SkyEntrance to the Sultan's Palace is Rp10,000 (Php50/US$1) plus Rp1,000 (around Php5/US$.10) for photography (Rates based on exchange rate of US$1-Rp9000 and Php1-Rp200) •  To go to the Sultan's Palace, you can ride a becak (local non-motorized bike transport), get a cab (flagdown is Rp5,000) or better yet walk the few kilometers from city center.

Next in Lagalog's 7-Part series on Indonesia: 
Part 4 -- Just dropping by: The Water Garden and Sultan's Palace in Kraton and Candi Ijo


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