Baris is a family of traditional war dances of Bali, accompanied by gamelan, in which a dancers depict the feelings of a young warrior prior to battle, glorify the manhood of the triumphant Balinese warrior, and display the sublimity of his commanding presence. Baris literally means line or file, referring to the line of soldiers who served the rajas of Bali.
There are two main types of Baris dance, which can be found throughout the island of Bali. The non-ritual dance is performed by a solo male dancer, and is often the first dance that a budding dancer learns. However, there are over thirty different types of ritual baris dances, each of which is performed by a group of people, still imitating the movements of the warrior.
A Baris Tunggal dancer, namely a Baris dancer who performs on his own, is dressed in white leggings known as celana. Around his ankles are coverings, known as setewel, which reaches halfway up his calves. The dancer wears a belt (setagen), reaching up on his body; inside this belt a keris is tucked, near the shoulder. Around the dancer's torso is a collection of fabric panels, known as awiran, which hang from his body. Another panel, larger, is fixed to his chest. Around his neck he wears a circular collar known as a badong; this collar may or may not be decorated with beads. The costume is completed with a triangular headdress made of shells on springs, which shake during the performance.
At first, as he takes the stage, the dancer's movements are studied and careful, as if he were seeking out foes in an unfamiliar place. When he reaches the middle of the stage, hesitation gives way to self-assurance. He rises on his toes to his full stature, his body motionless with quivering limbs, he whirls on one leg, his feet tread the ground to the tumult of the gamelan, and his face renders the storm of passions of a quick-tempered warrior.
There are a variety of group formats for the Baris dance, including Baris Gde, Baris Keris, Baris Omang, Baris Perisi, and Baris Dadap. These dances are accompanied by different types of music and involve different movements. Dancers may carry a variety of weapons, including a kris, a spear, a bow, or other weapons; often dances are named after the weapons carried. The performances may or may not attempt to convey a story. All, however, are considered sacral, and used for religious ceremonies and events.
Among these dances is the Baris Demang, which dates back into the 19th century (a drawing of a performance was acquired by Herman Neubronner van der Tuuk while in Bali). In such a dance, dancers wear costumes similar to those worn by the demang in gambuh performances, carrying wooden knives. This dance is usually performed during the Pemayun ritual.
Other versions include Baris Panah (in which the dancers are armed with arrows), Baris Presi (in which the dancers are armed with round shields), and Baris Dadap (in which dancers are armed with elongated, oblong shields). Baris Presi is common throughout northern and southern Bali. Baris Dadap, however, was limited in range by the 1980s. Dancers are not accompanied by an orchestra, but sing songs regarding wayang during performances; it is generally performed during cremation ceremonies or temple festivals (dewayadnya).
In Baris Biasa, dancers are armed with spears. Such dances are generally brief, and involve a form of playfighting known as masesraman, in which the wooden spears are knocked against each other. Dancers (who can be either male or, when they are fulfilling priestly roles, female) do not wear special costumes; they are only garbed in normal headgear and cloth. The Baris Biasa dance is generally performed in the morning, following temple activities.
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