Tragic Love in the Stories of Balinese Dance

Welcome Performance | Written By, Kartika D. Suardana | February 1st, 2018

Love is an absurdly warm feeling full of complexity. Love stories can end up being happily ever after or, alternatively, manifest into agony and hatred. Romance is a sedative that triggers the creative mind to express oneself, a great inspiration for artists. In the hands of talented artists, a bloody war caused by love can look like a beautiful event of human relationship.

Legong

Photo by Kartika D Suardana

Bali’s great dance choreographers have transformed some epic stories of tragic love into wonderful dance performances. Calonarang Dance is one of them, the theatrical dance potrays a story of a widow with a beautiful daughter. Unfortunately, the entire village has harshly rejected the daughter. This situation arose because the villagers believed that the widow and her daughter were jinxed. Therefore the widow’s dream to get her daughter to marry a gentleman from the village faded away. Enraged and willed with hatred towards the villagers, dragged her into black magic and intentions to harm them.

Another captivating dance about love causing turmoil is the Legong Dance. Who would ever have thought that the beautiful Legong Dance, one of the most famous Balinese traditional dances, depicts a story of unrequited love. The dance illustrates the love saga of Prabu Lasem, a legendary King in ancient Bali. The King fell in love with the beautiful princess of Daha, who turns down his proposal for marriage. The King gets furious and kidnaps the princess – just like Bob Dylan once said, ”You can’t be wise and in love at the same time”. In hearing that his daughter had been kidnapped, the King of Daha declared war and sent Garuda, the powerful mythical bird to attack Prabu Lasem.

In 1961, I Wayan Beratha created a theatrical dance performance narrating the story of Jayaprana and Layonsari. This love story doesn’t have a happy ending. Jayaprana is the right-hand of the King of Kalianget of Buleleng. Layonsari is the blooming flower of the village and the two are in love. Unfortunately the King also has grown fond to Layonsari. With a great hope to get Layonsari, the King orders his military leader to assassinate Jayaprana. Sad with the death of his right-hand man, the King proposes to Layonsari, but to his surprise Layonsari refuses. The King snaps and tries to take Layonsari forcefully. The girl draws the King’s dagger and ends her own life.

Calonarang

Photo by Kartika D Suardana

In addition to this list is the epic love triangle between Kan Tjin Wei- a Chinese princess, King Jaya Pangus and Dewi Danu – the Goddess of the Lake, which is illustrated through what is called the Barong Landung performance. Long before King Jaya Pangus met Dewi Danu and his affair with the Goddess during his spiritual journey, the King actually married to Kan Tjin Wei. The couple had not been blessed with offspring, which prompted the King’s journey of divinity. A son is born from the affair. When Kan Tjin Wei found out about the affair and the child, the Goddess became furious with the fact that Jaya Pangus had a wife. The Goddess cursed the King and his empress by transforming them into effigies indignant with his lie.

So whether a love story ends happily ever after or tragically it remains a great inspiration to many and can be transformed into a charming art form.

About Author :

Kartika D. Suardana

Visesa Ubud

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