In 1988, N.L.N Swasthi Wijaya Bandem created a dance inspired by the beauty of a bird – the Cendrawasih. The bird, which originates from Papua, holds deep significance and purpose in Balinese culture.   A priest on the way to a cremation ceremony (ngaben) will carry a stick with a stuffed Cendrawasih bird perched on the top. The bird, considered the “Bird of Gods,” is believed to have the power to purify the soul and release it from the material world. It is said in the…

TEXT AND Photos by Kartika D. suardana

In 1988, N.L.N Swasthi Wijaya Bandem created a dance inspired by the beauty of a bird – the Cendrawasih. The bird, which originates from Papua, holds deep significance and purpose in Balinese culture.   A priest on the way to a cremation ceremony (ngaben) will carry a stick with a stuffed Cendrawasih bird perched on the top. The bird, considered the “Bird of Gods,” is believed to have the power to purify the soul and release it from the material world. It is said in the epigraph “Yama Purwana Tatwa,” that the sacred bird unleashes the jiva or soul to the ultimate destination.

Swasthi elaborated the routines of Bali’s classical dance into a series of energetic movements portraying the Cendrawasih’s typical gestures.   Inspired by the elegance of the Cendrawasih, a bird of paradise, the habitant of the eastern part of Lombok and the symbol of Papua Province, N.L.N. Swasthi Wijaya Bandem created the choreography for what is now popularly known as the Cendrawasih dance.

The elegant movement and pretty gold fabrics of the costume make the dance unique. The beautiful choreography is supported by great music arranged by I Wayan Beratha and I Nyoman Widha.  The talented Swasthi designed the ornate costumes as well as arranging the choreography; the result is elegant golden attire complete with a golden yellow extension on the back to imitate the bird’s tail and a stylish headdress with a golden crest to symbolize the bird’s head.

Watching the dance is like witnessing a pair of “love birds” teasing each other, embracing and falling in love.  The clever and unique head movements of the dancers helps the audience to imagine them transform into two beautiful birds. 

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Kartika D. Suardana

Iceland Vodka
Bali Island School

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