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.
Traditionally, legong dancers were girls who have not yet reached puberty. They began 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. After marriage they would stop dancing. However, in present Indonesia dancers may be of all ages; performances by men in women's costumes are also recorded.
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 condong or attendant. She sets the scene, presents the dancers with their fans and later plays the part of the raven.
Traditionally, fifteen types of legong dance were known. The duration, movement, and narrative of each type differed. Some, for instance, could last for an hour. These types included:
- Legong Bapang Saba
- Legong Jebog
- Legong Kraton
- Legong Kuntir
- Legong Lasem
- Legong Raja Cina
- Legong Semarandana
- Legong Sudasarna
In popular culture
- Miguel Covarrubias, Island of Bali. Knopf, 1946.
- Dance and Drama, by Budi Anjarwani, page found 2010-07-30.
- "Tari Legong Tak Mengenal Usia" [Legong Dance Knows No Age]. Okezone.com (in Indonesian). 29 November 2014. Archived from the original on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- "Jakun Tak Bisa 'Menipu', Tari Legong Ini Ternyata Ditarikan 6 Orang Pria" [They Can't Lie: This Legong Dance Is Performed by Six Men]. Tribun. 20 June 2015. Archived from the original on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- Davies, Stephen (2006). "Balinese Legong: Revival or Decline?". Asian Theatre Journal 23 (2): 314–341. doi:10.1353/atj.2006.0018.
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