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The Baris Dance


An indispensable part of the ritual feasts of the old villages is the baris gede, a stately war dance in which ten or twelve middle-aged warriors with their beads covered with flowers, wearing magic scarves, and carrying long spears tipped with peacock feathers, dance in double line, grimacing and striking heroic poses until the music becomes violent, when they enact a sham battle with their black and silver spears.

No dance in the world can be more manly than the baris. Just as the legong is the representative feminine dance, so the baris typifies the strong elegance of the male and is the source of material for all masculine dances. When the first turkey came to Bali, the Balinese inmediately named it siap baris, the " baris bird." Remaining essentially a war dance, the style of the ritual baris was later adapted to the performance of heroic plays in the baris pende't, in which individual dancers play the military heroes, using dramatic dialogues to accompany their movement.

Every well-educated prince must be able to dance the baris when he enters middle age, having undergone a rigorous training to obtain the necessary skill and flexibility. To be in trim to dance the baris, one must be able to sit on one's beels keeping the knees spread wide apart in line with the body. A good dancer of baris., besides a finished physical training and an expressive tace, must also have a cultivated, sonorous voice. It is essential that an actor with a " fine " face, who plays youthful heroes, have -a high-pitched voice, while an actor who plays " strong," rough characters should have a deep, resonant voice to match the qualities of his face. A good dancer of baris, according to Balinese standards, is rare. We never tired of watching-,the princes Dewa Gede' Rake of Batuan and Gusti Ngurah Regog of, tegal tamu when they acted together.The music for the baris, played by a. gainelan gong, consists, of striking standard melodies with contrasting interludes that indicate the steps and the moods portrayed by the dancer, Every part of his body, from his toes to the tips of his fingers, is in action during the dance. Every muscle of his -face is controlled at will to render the storm of passions expressed by the quickrtempered warrior; expressions of admiration and wonder at aninvisible magic world all around him, surprise and rage at imaginary enemies, pleasure, tenderness, and love. But as the music grows more violent, the dancer becomes more and more tense, raising himself.on his toes until he gives the impression of growing in height; his eyes seem ready to jump from their sockets, his whole body trembles, making the flowers of his headdress shake violently. So raised on his toes and with his whole body at high nervous tension, he slaps. his thigh and points an accusing finger at his enemy, as with wild yells of "Wahl " " Adoh, adoh! " be draws his kris and struts aggressively towards his foe, who comes forward at the same moment; before they meet, the dancers stop defiantly, cursing each other, and when the clash comes, with tiger-like grace they perform a stylized duel to music, in which the routing of one of the characters indicates the end of the dance.

The ritual baris gede, baris tumbak-, has an exorcizing character and is invariably danced at important cremations and,in the feasts of the un-Javanized villages. It appears to be a native of Bali. There is a particularly magic baris, called baris tekok djgo, in which the dancers are dressed in magic black and white chequered cloth (Polen) and gringsing scarfs, which is prescribed for cremations in Badung; but in Sanur there is a group that dances in all-white clothes.

The characteristic part of the baris costume is ihe head-dress with its high triangle of white cloth (udeng-udengan), worn at the back of the head, and a diadem of fresh tjempaka flowers in the front, set in wires and arranged in rows, ending in spirals at each side of the head. The dancer of baris pendet wears skin-tight trousers (dial6r) and a little coat with tight sleeves (kwatji). Over his breast a scarf (umpal) is tied, and from it hang many narrow strips (Jelanti2r) of cloth overlaid with goldleaf, giving the dancer the aspect of an enormous gilt cabbage. On his back he wears a kris with gold handle. The word baris means " in line," " military formation."


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