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111 bygone days - and history makes no effort to shield us from this painful knowledge - the Kings of Europe were a pretty timid bunch, Pussyfboting through life in a suit of armour to protect them from the attentions of their fellowman, and surrounded by a bevy of Court Jesters, whose task it was to soften the facts of life for them and keep them in good humour. Crude characters, these Jesters, capering about in striped cat-suits, caps and bells. But theiriob was to amuse the monarch, and amuse, flatter and cajole him they did - or next day the Palace had a new Jester.

Now, while the European Kings were splitting their sides at the coarse buffonery of their Jesters, a different pattern entirely was being set in Bali. Even in such a beautiful island, a ruler is not immune from melancholy or insomnia. Well aware of this ' the Kings Of Bali sought and antidote - and came up with th

- the Palace dancers.

,Only the most beautiful girls and handsome men were allowed to appear before Royalty and these, in turn, competed to present dances each More spectacular than the other erfo

music of a gamelan orchestra

e Legong raton

r I'Lleu to the

0OPS1 Don't let the WOrdec>atnetan throw you. In case

still waiting to hear a gamelan, re-or-less
precussion instruments, starting w'itthisthae acOnIkIciction of mo you're

ung, which looks like a miniature zylophone, and running the gamut of a strange assortment of gongs, some like small saucepan lids, thers resembling inverted pressure cookers, right up to the big - ando 1 do mean big - gong. Finally, there are a couple of dynamic drummers, to help keep all this razzamatazz on the line.

Get the picture? Finel Let's press on.

The original Ugong Kraton was, and still is, a ballet performed by three young girls, exquisitely clad in traditional court costume - gold embroidered brocade, moulded to the torso in tight folds, falling to the ground in'a train; a tall coronet of trembling gold flowers, and long flowi h

blossoms.

air, studded with frangipanni

The ballet is based on a tale from old Java, and the three small girls in their ornate dress Portray a variety of characters

both male and female - with no change Of costume.

SO, you wonder, if this dance was designed for a King's delight, why the old boy didn't fit em out with Proper clobber? Why the mighty warrior, Lasem, wafts around in girl's clothes and why his captive Queen suddenly starts dancing the art of her kid

icks up a pair of brother? It is only when the little servant girl p p perforated buffalo-hide wings and does some fast footwork as the Garuda bird, that any attempt is made at costume identification.

And, come to think of it, how not?

The old Kings knew their legends a darned sight better than we know Red Riding Hood, and needed no costumes to carry the

storyline. If the action was likely to be involved, a spruiker stood on the sidelines and gave out with a f0Otlight commentary, the dancers contenting themselves with exaggerated eye movements and

fluttering fingers to convey their message.

A pattern for elegance established, it was only a matter of time before talented solists and musicians came up with new themes.

True, legends were all right in their own way, but did they have to

be the sole source of inspiration?

Not on your nellyl said the dancers. Ut's pay tribute to the glories of Bali. Let's honour it's warriours and Kings, for sure. But

let's not forget its fun-loving young men and the laughing-eyed girls who forever tease them. Let's remember, not only Garuda

birds - but also the beesI And for all of these, as the Kings won't have a clue what we're on about, we will make special costumes. For the character bits, where a haughty sneer comes in handy, well, not to worry - they will wear a mask.

SO the Baris, or warrior dance evolved, with shimmering helmet, swirling cloak and jewelled kris. The Jauk - that comic

dernon, menacing behind a pop-eyed mask. The Tambulilingan, sipping honey from the flowers as the flits on wings of chiffon.

And lastly, inspiration of the famous Mario - the Kebyar - the dance of flame; the dancer crouching and darting around the stage

like a tongue of fire.

 
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