Legong Dance

In Bali, not every one have same understanding of the word "Legong". Until today some Balinese think that legong is any non-dramatic dances performed by woman. One of the cause is the popularity of kebyar dances that become so popular in Bali after legong era. Instead, the word Legong Kraton, means 'legong of the palace', is often used by the Balinese referring to all repertoire of legong.

Despite the fate of legong that fade in popularity many decades ago, after it peaks in the beginning of this century, recently, slowly but quite encouragingly, legong regain it's popularity and dignity once more. This is partly caused by tourism industry and also by the work of individual, organization, or local government, who have special interest to the renaissance of this type of dance-drama.

But one thing is certain, the beauty and charm of this delicate and feminine dance is indisputable. It's not easy to find any dance in Bali and in other places that comparable to the grace and beauty of the legong. Beside the dance it self, many of musical compositions that accompanying it is among the sweetest and most beautiful on the island. Original music for legong accompaniment is gamelan pelegongan, a kind of percussion instruments with bronze keys, cymbals, and drums, although it can also accompanied by gamelan gong kebyar, the modern gamelan of Bali. The dancers start dancing for public at a very early age. Traditionally they are selected among little girls in the village for their suppleness and beauty. They will go on dancing legong until the age of puberty, before they start dancing other type dances. Usually excellent legong dancers are respected as master dancers at older age and some of them also become respected dancing teachers.

'Stage' of the legong, as for many other dances and dramas in Bali, is called kalangan in Balinese. This is an open space with a kind of horse shoe half circle created by the spectators. With a big tree, usually an enormous banyan tree, overshadows the stage, and an elevated beautiful carved candi bentar gate as the back drop, from where the dancers emerge, the stage is complete. Watching legong performance in such a place under a moonlight at night is quite an experience, for some, this also means a revelation...

Up to now, at least eighteen forms of legong had been recorded. Some of them successfully revived only recently. And the others are quite popular that almost in par with kebyar dance. The legong are, lasem, kupu-kupu tarum, jobog, kuntul, legod bawa, smaradhana, andir, condong, and many others.

Some villages in Central and Southern Bali are considered home of the legong. They are, Peliatan, Ubud, Saba, Bedulu, Sukawati in Gianyar area, Binoh in Badung area, Kerambitan in Tabanan area, among others. These villages posses long legong traditions, and most of them still own high quality legong troupes today.

Some of Balinese dances are now labeled as 'classic'. This classic label only presented to an arts form that posses exceptional quality and endurance to survive for many generations, and legong is considered as one of them.

Meanwhile, story of the birth of the legong is no less intriguing than the legong it self. In early nineteenth century, a prince in Sukawati was in a coma condition caused by his ill. In his coma he saw two beautiful nymphs dancing a feminine and delicate dance. Not only he saw the dance, he heard the sound of music that accompanying it as well. Struck by the mysterious and beautiful sight and sound, later after his health revival, together with artists of the village, he transformed his imagination into reality. So, born the legong, another performing arts form, as a gentle touch of the arts to the already arts fertile island.

At first legong, as well as other dances at the time, allows only male dancers. Many decades later, female dancers take place, brought legong dance to the new height as we see today.

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