I’ve been back a month now! And I haven’t been dancing nearly enough. Here are some moments that take me back.
After a few weeks of study, we started wearing a mask and the basic parts of the costume in class. Both really change the way you move.
The costume frames the mask—which is typically carved slightly smaller than a face—in a way such that the arms and shoulders must be held high for it to play correctly. It feels odd at first, but it’s much easier to get a feeling for the choreography when observing others use the mask and costume pieces.
Some of the costume pieces—the wig, the hat, and the flowers by the ears—we used for the first time before performing for the public. It can be a little disorienting to add things at the last minute, but that’s how it goes. Below is a video of our final dance performance. It should give you a sense of what we were doing. It should be noted that normally the dance is actually done solo, and the music follows the dancer. Conversely, we danced in a group, and were attempting to follow the music. We got it mostly right. 🙂
(Psst! I’m on the right.)
On that night, we ended with our kecak performance. There are six interlocking rhythms that form the majority of the chant (we each learned one of the six), as well as a bit of singing. Originally, the kecak was done as a part of a trance ceremony. Since the artistic intervention of Walter Spies in the 1920s, this chant includes the story of the Ramayana when performed for tourists.
The video below is a section toward the beginning of the piece, so unfortunately you don’t get to see the exciting part we chase each other with fire …which we used for the first time during our actual performance. Can you say “trust exercise”?
This trip was made possible in part by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council.