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Legong is a form of Balinese dance. It is a refined dance form characterized by intricate finger movements, complicated footwork, and expressive gestures and facial expressions.

An extremely basic definition of legong is a dance traditionally performed by pre-pubescent girls in the palaces of feudal Bali.

One translation is that the word is made up of two words. Lega meaning happy and Ing wong meaning person – put them together and you get: “something that makes people happy”. Another one is oleg meaning dance and gong meaning gamelan, the music that accompanies the dance. [1]


Legong probably originated in the 19th century as royal entertainment. Legend has it that a prince of Sukawati fell ill and had a vivid dream in which two maidens danced to gamelan music. When he recovered, he arranged for such dances to be performed in reality.[2] Others believe that the Legong originated with the sanghyang dedari, a ceremony involving voluntary possession of two little girls by beneficent spirits.[3] Legong is also danced at public festivals. Excerpts from Legong dance dramas are put on for tourists.

There is a possibility that legong is even older. The legong of Ketewel village in Gianyar traces its origins back to around 1825 when a prince named Dewa Karna Agung saw beautiful heavenly nymphs dancing the legong in a vision whilst in deep meditation in the local temple. Based on his vision dancers were sought to fit the part but as no girls in the village were beautiful enough to fit the part masks were made to cover the faces. What is certain, legong developed during feudal times and it is not a new dance. [4]


An adult performer of Legong Bapang Saba.

Legong dancers are generally girls who have not yet reached puberty. They begin rigorous training at about the age of five. These dancers are regarded highly in the society and usually become wives of royal personages or wealthy merchants.[5] Interestingly enough, it is said that the original legong was danced by young boys in the courts and it was named Nandir. [6]

Performances are often, but not always, prefaced with the condong dance, in which a lone dancer depicts a palace servant who admires the king and princess.[7]


Unbeknownst to most people, including the Balinese, there are more than fifteen different stories in the legong repertoire with names such as Jobog (monkey kings), Kuntul (pied stilts) and Lasem (a Majapahit King).

Today the most common legong dance is Legong Keraton, so named by the Sultanate of Keraton Surakarta when the music and dance composer and genius I Wayan Lotring from Kuta was invited to perform in the 1920s with his Gamelan Pelegongan group in the keraton (palace) in Surakarta. Around a decade before, the Condong part of the performance was added by composer and musician, AA Peririt from Sukawati. A complete Legong Keraton performance is made up of more than ten parts. However, these are customarily cut for tourist performances; today it is very rare to see a complete Legong Keraton performance. [8]

Classical Legong enacts several traditional stories. The most common is the tale of the King of Lasem from the Malat, a collection of heroic romances. He is at war with another king, the father (or brother) of Princess Ranjasari. Lasem wants to marry the girl, but she detests him and tries to run away. Becoming lost in the forest, she is captured by Lasem, who imprisons her and goes out for a final assault against her family. He is attacked by a monstrous raven, which foretells his death.

The dramatics are enacted in elaborate and stylized pantomime. The two little actresses are accompanied by a third dancer called a tjondong/condong or attendant. She sets the scene, presents the dancers with their fans and later plays the part of the raven.

See also[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Legong is mentioned in "I've Been To Bali Too", the single by Australian folk-rock band Redgum from their 1984 album Frontline.


  1. ^ [1], by Vaughan Hatch (Mekar Bhuana), page found 2014-05-02.
  2. ^ Legong: Balinese Traditional Dances, page found 2010-07-30.
  3. ^ Miguel Covarrubias, Island of Bali. Knopf, 1946.
  4. ^ [2], by Vaughan Hatch (Mekar Bhuana), page found 2014-05-02.
  5. ^ Dance and Drama, by Budi Anjarwani, page found 2010-07-30.
  6. ^ [3], by Vaughan Hatch (Mekar Bhuana), page found 2014-05-02.
  7. ^ Kusumawati, Utami Diah (23 December 2012). "Tari Legong Condong, yang Klasik dan Antik" [The Legong Condong Dance, Classic and Antique]. Jurnal Nasional (in Indonesian). Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  8. ^ [4], by Vaughan Hatch (Mekar Bhuana), page found 2014-05-02.

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