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Main Pecularities Of Calonarang Dance

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First, our group studiously analyzed the piece, describing each scene in detail using the questions in 2a – 2c. Then, we transferred our descriptions to a comprehensive Google sheet that allotted a column for each scene (organized chronologically by timestamp). Each character was allotted a row, and appropriate descriptions were placed beneath appropriate scenes. We also allotted a row to note gong cycles, tempo changes, and instruments. My contribution was to map out the character descriptions for the male servants/Panasar, Minister Madri, Prime Minister Magno, villagers (who bury their children), and Witch Kalika. I also mapped out roughly one-third of the tempo changes for the piece. During our group discussion, we came up with the idea for our visual based on Kayla’s suggestions, after she had seen our spreadsheet. In the end, we decided to linearly map the gong cycles, including time stamps and short descriptions of the scenes for each gong cycle.

As shown in the visual, the second-longest cycle occurs around 2:39, where the music uses the gegaboran cycle (pur-tong-pur-gong), which has sixteen beats. During this scene, Matah Gede enters and speaks for a bit. The longest cycle occurs around 6:30, where the music uses the pangawak cycle (tong on beat 32 and beat 60), which has sixty-four beats. During this scene, the maid servants/disciples are chanting, asking to be transformed to be like Rangda. In contrast, the shortest cycle occurs around 12:55 and afterwards, when the batel cycle is used. These scenes are frenzied and sorrowful, featuring the villagers trying to bury their children, Witch Kalika entering and scaring the villagers away from the grave, and the ensuing drama. We were not as certain about this scene, but we also identified the gong cycle around 11:44 as the batel cycle as well. Dramatic dialogue is taking place in that scene,

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As seen in the visual, the gong cycles seem to indicate a beginning portion (beginning till 6:30), a middle portion (6:30 till around 11:44), and an ending portion (11:44 till the end). The reason why I chose these separations and moments of transformation is because the longest gong cycle starts around 6:30, and the first short batel cycle occurs around 11:44. While these may seem to be arbitrary placements, they do make sense given the overall arch of the story. First, the scenes from the beginning till 6:30 only feature Matah Gede and the disciples, with the main conflict happening after 3:36, when the characters confront each other, and Matah Gede hits the disciples. Second, the disciples’ transformation from 6:30 onwards sets the stage for the spreading of the epidemic, which forms the main conflict of the story. Finally, the Prime Minister instructs Minister Madri to investigate the epidemic in 11:44, and the rest of the drama is about how the village responds to the epidemic (i.e. the villagers try to bury their children, Witch Kalika intervenes, Garuda comes in and fights, and the Sacred Berong dances).

Because this is only one piece, I am not completely sure if the gong cycles can be generalized further. At least in this drama, we saw large-scale patterns that included the longest gong cycle ushering in the main conflict, and the shorter gong cycles ushering in the resolution and ending of the conflict. The one constant throughout the drama was the kotekan, which was used throughout the entire piece, sometimes stopping when all the instruments stop (not always, though, since the kotekan is sometimes still heard when the other instruments pause). When we were listening for tempo changes in the clip, we found it most useful to listen to the pace of the kotekan. Although the kotekan is not primarily responsible for directing the tempo, it definitely guides the overall rhythm and keeps all the instruments in sync, much like how an orchestral conductor would set the tempo with his gestures.

Bandem, I Made. DeBoer, Fredrik Eugene (1995) Balinese Dance in Transition: Kaja And Kelod (Second Edition). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. Chapter 6 (pp. 102-126).

De Zoete, Beryl, and Walter Spies, Dance and Drama in Bali.

Bandem organizes Chapter 6 of his book by dance category. The Calonarang section elaborates on the traditional plot structure of the dance, and the character roles for the Barong Ket, Rangda, condong (attendant), sisya (four to six female dancers), Matah Gede (the Widow of Girah), Ratna Manggali, King of Erlangga, Punta, Kartala, Pandung (the King’s Patih) bondres (rustics), Pangpang (Rangda’s chief assistant), and others. Bandem notes that the Calonarang draws from older dances, which is why the Rangda and Barong appear in the Calonarang. Interestingly, the author notes in an earlier section that Rangda does not need to keep time to the music, when dancing. Rather than possessing technical ability, dancers who play Rangda must possess spiritual power (i.e. be a Wong Sakti or a priest). In another earlier section, Bandem notes that the Barong should not be mistaken for an evil character, even if it appears as a scary spirit.

Dance and Drama in Bali also gives a thorough description of the Calonarang’s plot. This description differs somewhat from Bandem’s description – for example, this version features a whole section on Bharadah, who is not mentioned in Bandem’s version or the JVC performance. This reading also does not include background analysis on the Rangda, and only briefly explains that the Barong dance and characters are always linked with the Calonarang dance and characters.

After reading these two excerpts, I was able to much better understand the larger plot of the Calonarang, especially since we were only able to watch a twenty minute excerpt. However, the JVC performance did not exactly match either descriptions, so I suspect that the exact performances probably differ by region, dance and music troupe, and so forth. This performance could also have been modified from traditional versions, although that is a less likely possibility. Lecture notes also provided helpful background information, but most of what we learned in this class was used in our musical and visual analysis, since we did not cover the Calonarang plot in as much detail as the readings did.


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