The sharp twang of traditional gamelan instruments mixed with colorful, gold-leafed costumes and precise hand movements are bringing Balinese culture to the Indianapolis community this semester.
Butler University theatre students dove headfirst into the artistic practices of Bali—an island province of Indonesia—during the past two weeks in preparation for this weekend’s Balinese Spectacular performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
I Nyoman Sedana, this year’s visiting international theatre artist, his wife and his two children made the trip to Butler from their home in Bali to provide students with the opportunity to learn and perform traditional Balinese dances.
Sedana said the traditional performance consists of five different segments: a shadow puppet show, a greeting dance featuring 13 females called the Pushpanjali, a warrior dance with four males holding spears, a dance featuring his wife and daughter as birds and a chant called the Kecak.
The performance will lack narration, Sedana said, as is normal in Balinese tradition.
“For this performance, the story will be obscure because we don’t have a narrator,” Sedana said. “We will make stronger vocals and chorus and movement to help the audience.”
Angie Malone, JCA’s costume shop manager, said all of the costumes are brightly colored, gold-painted masterpieces. Some of the women’s costumes were actually brought over from Bali, and the rest of the costumes were made to imitate the traditional garb.
With only two weeks to prepare the costumes, Malone said Sedana has been crucial to correctly creating the ensembles.
“Dr. Sedana has been such a wealth of knowledge,” Malone said. “We couldn’t figure out how to put together the costumes at first, so he has been giving us a real education.”
Malone was not the only person at Butler to benefit from Sedana’s visit to Indianapolis.
Senior theatre major Lauren Albert worked with Sedana last week and will perform in both the Pushpanjali and the Kecak.
“He is very professional,” Albert said, “and the reason you love working with him is because he loves what he does. He doesn’t look at us as people who don’t understand his culture or the dances. He looks at us as strong students.”
Albert said the performance will serve as a preview for people to get a taste of Balinese dance before the casted performance of “Bali Dream” the first two weekends of November.
Senior theatre major Kate Powell said the Balinese Spectacular rehearsals and performance will serve as the audition for Bali Dream.
Powell said she is impressed with the amount of progress that has been made in such a short time, considering the difficulty of the dances.
“The dancing is very exact in the hand movements,” Powell said. “It’s all about the precise way you hold your hands, which has been new for a lot of us.
But Dr. Sedana is so thrilled with how we are willing to try new things, and he is so willing to accept our lack of knowledge about his culture and educate us.”
The Balinese Spectacular performance is open to the public at the IMA this Friday and Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for IMA members and free for Butler students with ID.
Albert said she hopes people from all over the community will take advantage of this cultural opportunity.
“It’s such a beautiful and once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Albert said. “This is something you normally would never be able to experience unless you were in Bali.”