World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Suciawani Balinese Dance

DANCE ORIGIN: North Bali, Indonesia
GENRE: Traditional
First appearance in SF EDF: 2014

Suciawani Balinese Dance was formed in Santa Cruz in 2013 by Nina Herlina and Luh Andarawati. Suciawani means “Sacred Earth” in old Balinese. It is also the name of one of the group’s teachers, Ida Ayu Ketut Suciawani, who came to teach in California with her husband, Putu Putrawan, in 2007, a wonderful dancer and teacher with a strong North Balinese dance style—famous for its unique strength and dynamic expressions.



DANCE ORIGIN: North Bali, Indonesia
TITLE: Wiranjaya (Victorious Warrior)
GENRE: Traditional
CHOREOGRAPHERS: I Ketut Merdana, I Putu Sumiasa
DANCERS: Luh Andarawati, Nina Herlina

Wiranjaya (Victorious Warrior), tells the story of the Pandawa twins from the Hindu Mahabharata, as they journey to learn archery from the mountain hermit Bhagawan Tamba Petra. Two female dancers perform a duet in the strong bebancihan androgynous style. Note the precise geometry, masculine high energy, changing moods, and the bold, youthful humor. The dance was created in the early 1900s in Kedis Village, West Buleleng, North Bali, where it was specially choreographed to a fiery new music—music from a new gamelan called kebyar. A gamelan is an ensemble, or orchestra, of metallophones, gongs, cymbals, drums, and flute; and kebyar gong gamelan was arranged differently: with mostly xylophone-like bronze metallophones. The new orchestra shaped a new—and very popular—music. Kebyar musicians could play faster than any other gamelan, and yet remain precise and controlled. Wiranjaya is now a secular and sacred form, danced for performance and competition, and also danced to honor ancient Hindu characters in the temple. Sadly, in Indonesia’s 1965 political turmoil, Kedis Village and its gamelan set were destroyed.

Wiranjaya was choreographed by I Ketut Merdana and I Putu Sumiasa in 1957, introduced to this company by the late Ida Ayu Ketut Suciawani in California in 2007, and set for this stage in 2013. Music editing, choreography, costuming, and blocking are by Luh Andarawati. Recorded music is by Gamelan Tripitaka, Munduk Village, Buleleng, North Bali, led by I Made Terip and Putu Putrawan.

This story is commonly told through Balinese shadow puppets, so the elaborate costumes resemble those of puppets, with attributes from kstrya characters, the “good guys.” Yellow knickers, gold-printed yellow sarong, and golden body wraps symbolize glory. The headdresses—a tied yellow udang wrap, hair in a tall bun, eagle design, and prekapat tassels are those of refined and noble masculine characters. Dancers also wear a leather ampokampok belt; beaded bapang shoulder cover; gelang kana arm bands; and rumbing– male-style earrings—to honor the art of listening. Fans are playful props and symbolic weapons; quivers show the Pandawa twins as archers.

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