The most graceful of Balinese dances, this is the epitome of classical Balinese female dancing. A legong, as the dancer known, is often a young girl of eight or nine years, rarely older than her early teens. It was first created in the 18th Century and is usually the first dance to be taught to beginners. There are many forms of Legong, the most frequently performed dance being the Legong Keraton or Legong of the Palace.
The story of the Legong is very stylized and symbolic and one should know the story before actually watching the performance. The Legong involves three dancers – two legongs and their ‘attendant’, the condong. The legongs are identically costumed in gold brocade, which is bound so tightly that it is a mystery such agitated and rapid moves could be made. With elaborately made-up faces, plucked eyebrows that are boldly repainted, and hair decorated with frangipanis, the dancers relate the story with captivating movements.
A king takes the maiden Rangkesari captive. When her brother comes to release her, Rangkesari begs the king to free her rather than go to war. The king refuses and chances upon a bird carrying ill omens on his way to battle. However, he ignores the bird, meets Rangkesari’s brother, and was thus killed in the fight. The roles of the dancers may change according to the narration.