The Panyembrama: Flowers, Smiles and Gentle Gestures
Despite there being thousands of beautiful destinations in the world, Bali remains unique, thanks to its culture. The growth of the tourism industry in Bali goes hand in hand with the preservation and even elaboration of culture and art on the island. The word ‘art’, funnily enough, doesn’t actually exist in the local dialect. However ‘art’ has been performed and created as part of the service and worship to the gods since before the sixth century. Since this time, dances to welcome the deities have been created, and sacred dances have been modified and composed to be performed on the commercial stage.
The Panyembrama is a dance that was choreographed by I Wayan Berata. The maestro created this dance 40 years ago, after years of learning the intricacies of traditional Balinese dance and music. The dance was choreographed to welcome the guests and audiences of an event. Hence the name of the dance derives from the Balinese word [anyembrama, meaning ‘welcome’.
The Panyembrama was performed for the first time on the Pandaan Festival in 1971. The dance usually is performed by two or more female dancers wrapped in a kamben (sarong), a tapih (a layering cloth coating the kamben), and a sash (a long cloth bandaging the body from waist till chest). Their hair is beautifully styled and decorated with frangipani and gold flowers. The pose and the routines of the Panyembrama is modification of three different dances, which are the Pendet, Gabor and Rejang dances. The routines of the dance are accompanied with the vibrant sound of a full set of gamelan, the Balinese traditional orchestra. The dancers make a slow entrance and effortless sway their curvy bodies as they walk to the centre of the stage; wide smiles decorate their faces. Although this dance tells no story, it is still very attractive to the watcher as the classic moves and the genuine smiles of the dancers create such a charming performance. To watch the dance, head toward Pura Dalem Ubud nearby the Ubud Palace on Tuesday evenings.Every Tuesday evening, the Karyasa Dance Troupe performs a series of dances at the temple’s hall, starting from 7.30pm. The Panyembrama Dance, as traditional welcoming, is performed as the opening performance by a small group of beautiful and talented female dancers, accompanied by the lively gamelan orchestra. The energetic rhythm and clean sound that follows each and every small gesture that the dancers do fills the entire theatre with life. The sounds and the dance itself has the power to take its audience back in time, back to the island’s past where dances were only performed at a temple’s courtyard during a ceremony.
The dancers carry a bokor, an engraved bowl made from silver or aluminum, filled generously with flowers. By the end of the performance, the dancers bend on their knees and make a gesture as if they are carrying out a Balinese; this routine is meant to wish blessings for the audience. Afterwards, the dancers makes a circular movement whilst throwing their flowers into the air or over the audience as an expression of welcome. When the dancers throw these gentle petals, it is the sign that the performance is finish. Now, isn’t that an enchanting way to welcome?