A Life Of A Dancer
The secrets behind an enchanting Balinese Dance Performance...
As technology takes control of most of our activities, everyone seems to put the majority of their energy towards the never-ending race of fame in social media. Local culture now perhaps becomes less attractive to the younger generation as they spend more time as members of the online society. But here on the Island of the Gods, local culture is still the most important aspect of life to the Balinese. Artistry is considered a need, and the pride of being part of the culture is still strong.
Most of the Balinese who were born and raised on the island are trained as dancers – some of them perform dancing regularly in their own community while some others take it to the next level by becoming professionals. We are lucky that dancing is a huge part of our daily lives – the local government agrees that culture should be part of our education system and many parents encourage their children to learn the island’s identity. The tourism industry is still counting on the preservation of culture as well, and that’s why being a dancer is still considered a noble profession in Bali. Let’s just hope that this value will last for many centuries to come.
Wiraga Wirama Wirasa
To become a good dancer, the Balinese believe that these three aspects should be mastered:
• Wiraga: the ability to master the body’s movement. It is not only about being able to do the routine, but also to understand every single meaning behind the movement.
• Wirama: the ability to be a part of the music, including understanding the rhythm, pitch, and tempo.
• Wirasa: the ability to master emotion. Every single dance has its own story, and each story has certain emotions that should be expressed naturally.
Talent is a gift, but the Balinese believes that hard work is the key to becoming a good dancer – that, and the willingness to push their limits. Professional Balinese dancers spend hours every day practicing their wiraga, wirama and wirasa.
Taksu is the ability to translate artistry into a performance. It is not only about amazing body movements and a good understanding of music and expression, but also about putting your soul into the dance. Taksu takes a dancer to a different level of art. With Taksu, a dance performance is not just a show but also an inspiration. It somehow makes the audience enchanted by the performance and able to feel the emotion of the dance.
Some people say taksu is a spiritual power, others define it as charisma. Many also believe that a dancer can master Taksu through prayer, while some say that meditation is the way to get Taksu and others believe it is already in the DNA. Yes, Balinese dancers do pray and meditate, and of course they practice for years to master Taksu, but even so, not all of them have the real Taksu.
The Great Mario
Among the many Balinese dancers, I Ketut Maria (also known as I Ketut Mario) is one of the most iconic dancers known for his Taksu. He was born in 1897 to a humble family in Denpasar, who decided to move to Tabanan due to their financial situation. The family then served the King of Kaleran in Tabanan. Anak Agung Made Kaleran (the king of Kaleran at that time) saw Mario’s talent and encouraged him to learn dancing. Mario began to learn dancing from two masters, “Pan Candri” and “Salit” – and the teachers were soon amazed by Mario’s talent. Soon Mario was known for his amazing Taksu.
In 1958, young Mario traveled to Paris, Amsterdam and London and wowed the crowds there. Since then, Mario has been recognized as one of the world’s most talented performers. In 1962 he traveled to America and ever since has been known as “the Great Mario.” It was during this journey that he met the love of his life, Ni Made Jareng, and soon after started a family together.
Mario’s creations now become some of the greatest Balinese dances and an inspiration to the younger generation – some of I Ketut Mario’s creations are the Oleg Tambulingan Dance, the Terompong Dance, and the Kebyar Duduk Dance. I Ketut Mario passed away in 1968 but he is still one of the most legendary artists in the history of Balinese culture. The government of Tabanan even built the “I Ketut Maria” hall in the heart of Tabanan to honor the great I Ketut Mario.
Contributor : Bayu Rahanatha
Magazine issue > Craft&Culture