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Two pre-adolescent girls performing Legong dance
Legong probably originated in the 19th century as royal entertainment. Legend has it that a prince of Sukwati 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. Others believe that the Legong originated with the sanghyang dedari, a ceremony involving voluntary possession of two little girls by beneficent spirits. Legong is also danced at public festivals. Excerpts from Legong dance dramas are put on for tourists.
Legong dancers are always 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.
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 or attendant. She sets the scene, presents the dancers with their fans and later plays the part of the raven.
In popular culture
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