Legong Jobog – Balinese Tale of Subali & Sugriwa

Culture | Written By, Kartika D. Suardana |

Legong etymology means a beautiful series of body movements, ordance, that is accompanied by agong, Balinese traditional music instrument. There are various kinds of legong dances, one of them is the Legong Jobog. The difference between the legong dances is not only the story that the dance narrates, but also the routines involved.

Photo By Kartika Dewi Suardana

The gamelan orchestra starts to play. Two female dancers, wrapped in prada, the Balinese gold-printed fabric, sit in the vajrasana position. Their right hand rests on their hip, their hand of their lap. For a few minutes, soft and melodic music plays off the Gamelan Semar Pagulingan; the recreational gamelan that used to be played in palaces, often as lullabies for kings. In the beginning, the legong was only performed for the king, and then became something performed at royal functions.

Legong Jobog narrates a story taken from the Ramayana. The story is about the twin monkeys, Subali and Sugriwa, both sons of a god. The Balinese version of the story is that Subali and Sugriwa were born human. Their fight over their mother’s magical jewel named Cupumanik Astagina, had led them to fall into a lake that transformed them into monkey. During this performance, there are sessions when the gamelan plays low and the narrator starts a kidung – traditional song that narrating the story.

Photo By Kartika Dewi Suardana

Most of the routines, from beginning to the middle, show elegance. The dancers perfrom with a fan in their hand. They play their hand fan with grace and most of the time in harmony with their neck, head and eyes. But when the fight begins, the hand fan is replaced with a bunch of leaves. The ambiance of the stage drastically changes. The tempo of the gamelan gets faster and the narrator sounds provocative – even when you don’t understand the language, you can hear the angry tone and scary laugh. However even the fight scene maintains that original elegance. They hold hands, and spin around each other, their other hands holding the leaves high in the air.

Photo By Kartika Dewi Suardana

One of the dancers finally falls to the ground. The other one stands strong with one foot on the air as if stepping on the back of the other and lashing the back other with the leaves. But the performance doesn’t end there. A retaliation happens. However, none of the brothers win the battle. Their father sends them away for self isolation and meditation. Meanwhile the piece of jewelleryis believed to have fallen on the ground during the squabble and turned the ground into the lake that change the form of Subali and Sugriwa.

Photos are taken during a regular dance performance in Puri Saren Ubud.

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