Dancing with the Bulls
In Jembrana Regency, with a history of migrating Madurese fishermen to the area over the centuries, an assimilation of tradition occurred. These fishermen introduced their unique Madurese boat designs to the area, which can be seen anchored at the bay of Perancak Village. The Madurese introduced their famous bull races to Bali too. In Bali, this bull race is called Makepung and can only be seen in the Jembrana Regency, around mid-year. However, it is slightly different from the one in Madura since some acculturations have taken place.
This special Makepung tradition inspired I Ketut Suwentra to create a beautiful dance routine. The dance presents a sample of the fusion of culture that is happening in the regency situated on the western side of the island. Unlike other dances of Bali, the Makepung dance is not accompanied by gamelan, Bali’s traditional orchestra, but accompanied by the jegog, a traditional bamboo orchestra originating from the Jembrana regency. The Makepung dance is performed by a group of female dancers consisting of 5 dancers or more, who act as buffaloes and a group of 5 or more male dancers performing the masculine routine as the herders and buffalo riders.
The dance narrates the process of Makepung. First of all, the dynamic routines performed narrate the buffalo’s activity on the field: playing with one another, grazing and being covered in mud. Then a group of herders come to the field and tame the buffalos with their manly strength. Then, these brave herders tame the wild animals so that they can be ridden safely. Of course, the story ends with the victory of these herders-turned-jockeys, as they succeed in riding the beasts.
The dance I watched at Pura Dalem Ubud was beautifully performed. The female dancers wore sparkling orange shirts, tight black trousers and their heads were adorned with ornaments resembling buffalo’s ears. Some authentic Balinese fabric and ornaments made the dancers sparkle more. Meanwhile the men wore black with a touch of authentic Balinese prada fabric. To display their masculinity even more, they held a whip throughout the whole performance.
Jegog performances include several dances by Yowana Swara Jegog and his dance troupe, who perform at Pura Dalem Ubud every Wednesday at 7.30 pm. It is a worthy opportunity to be introduced to the dances of Bali. Not only can you admire the beautiful routines of each dance performed, you can also witness the skills that are passed down from generation to generation and the harmonic collaboration between sound and motion, and between elderly and young. A true Balinese experience.