Classical Javanese court music and dances on show in Jakarta
By Hartoyo Pratiknyo
JAKARTA (JP): Coming on the heels of the triumphant presentation of the Senapati Kelaswara-Adaninggar dance drama -- performed in the golek menak (wooden puppet) style of Yogyakarta at the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center (TIM) last month -- is another treat for aficionados of classical Javanese court music and dance in Jakarta.
Fans will have the rare opportunity this weekend to see several authentic court dances, including the bedaya, performed by dancers and musicians from Yogyakarta's royal court, or kraton.
Apart from the dances, the performances -- scheduled to take place on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26 beginning at 8 p.m. at Graha Bhakti Budaya -- will also offer gamelan music performed on two sets of ancient instruments, known as Kyai (the venerated) Madumurti and Kyai Madukusumo.
The program for Saturday evening includes the Bedaya Sang Amurwabumi dance and the martial dance Beksan Lawung Ageng, to be followed by gamelan concerts.
Scheduled to be performed on Sunday are the Srimpi Pandelori and the Beksan Guntur Segara dances, which also will be followed by gamelan concerts.
The performances on both nights will involve no less than 115 people, including two princesses of the royal court of Yogyakarta -- G.R.Aj. Nurmalita Sari and G.R.Ay. Nurmagupita.
In former days, the bedaya, which is usually performed by nine female dancers -- but occasionally, in less sacred performances, by seven -- was considered to be among the most august trappings of Javanese royalty. Of these dances, the oldest and most sacred is the Bedaya Ketawang, which is still performed on special occasions in the kraton (royal court) of Surakarta, and nowhere else.
Such was the veneration accorded to this dance form that even lesser courts -- such as those of the principalities of Pakualaman in Yogyakarta and Mangkunegaran in Surakarta -- were not allowed to perform them.
Although all nine dancers in the bedaya wear uniform costumes, each one plays a different role, according to the story that is being told. Tradition has it that this dance was commissioned in the early 17th century by Sultan Agung, the third and greatest king of Mataram, who ruled the kingdom jointly with his consort, Kangjeng Ratu Kencanasari, also known as Nyai Roro Kidul, the beautiful and redoubtable goddess of the South Sea (Indian Ocean).
The Bedaya Sang Amurwabumi, which will be presented on Saturday evening, was commissioned by the present sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengku Buwono X, who dedicated it to his deceased father, the widely esteemed Hamengku Buwono IX, on the occasion of the latter's being posthumously declared a national hero of Indonesia. Fittingly, the dance takes its basic storyline from the Pararaton, the ancient "book of kings" of the Tumapel and Majapahit kingdoms of old. In essence, it contains teachings about the basic qualities a good ruler should possess.
Although it has currently become the vogue to present bedaya for tourists in an abbreviated form, traditionally a bedaya performance can last for an hour or more.
The martial dance Beksan Lawung Ageng was commissioned by the founder of the sultanate of Yogyakarta, Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono I. The earliest Beksan Lawung Ageng dance represented soldiers exercising the martial arts and was performed by 40 male dancers.
For Saturday's event, the Beksan Lawung Gagak will be presented by 16 male dancers performing in a variety of costumes and dance styles. A few diatonic musical instruments, such as trumpets and drums, were added to the traditional gamelan orchestra during the rule of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono VIII.
The srimpi, which is usually performed by four female dancers -- the only exception being Srimpi Renggowati, which is performed by five -- takes its storyline either from ancient epics such as the Mahabharata or from more recent mythology.
The Srimpi Pandelori which will be performed on Sunday takes its story from the Menak, in particular the episode which sees Dewi Kadarwati, a princess of the mythological kingdom of Koparman, battling Dewi Ngummyungmadikin of the kingdom of Ngambarkustup. The dance takes its name from the gamelan music that accompanies it, the Gendhing Pandelori.
The battle themes presented in all srimpi dances symbolize the never-ending battle between good and evil.
The Beksan Guntur Segara dance takes its story from an episode in a cycle of folktales about the Jenggala and Kediri kingdoms of East Java. In particular, this male dance depicts the battle between Raden Jayasena and Raden Guntur Segara to win recognition as the son of the king of Jenggala. The battle, however, ends undecided.
The episode is performed by four male dancers, two representing Jayasena and two Raden Guntur Segara, all wearing identical costumes and performing the same dance movements.
The performance on Saturday will be preceded by an introduction from Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, and on Sunday Minister of Culture and Tourism I Gede Ardika will introduce the performance.