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Traditional Bali Performing Arts

About The Dynamics Traditional Bali Performing Arts in the Cultural Tourism Context

Bali in Two Worlds

Bali now is Bali which live in two worlds. Two very different worlds, mutual attraction, fighting for the real Bali’s natural spaces and Balinese psyche spaces. The first World is the traditional agrarian world that has existed since at least 4000 years ago, with Hindu spirit, as well as a wide range of cultural expression, and the other world is the world of modern Western civilization that came to Bali as a consequence of exploration and exploitation (colonization) of the Western World (Netherlands) at the beginning of the 17th century who introduced Bali to world trade, capitalism and consumerism increasingly globalized.

The most obvious expression of the traditional agrarian world of Bali are hundreds types of custom-religious ritual that is still practiced by the Balinese, almost every time, and often involves some performing arts both sacred and secular (profane, entertainment). Being the presence of the modern world can be seen from the changes in agrarian villages into towns and tourist areas such as Denpasar, Sanur, Kuta, Nusa Dua, Ubud and then branching out into other areas, as well as the Bali population who prefer modern products like car, motorcycle, electronic gadgets and other. Traditional agrarian world trying to survive in order not to erode by the modern world while trying to seize because that’s the nature of capitalism and consumerism. The Balinese life, struggling between two worlds and trying to compromise the two conflicting worlds.

Hindu spirited Balinese tradition World with nature and ancestral worship elements is the result of evolution and acculturation of some cultures which came to this island: the ancestors of South China about 4000 years ago and culture of Hindu-Buddhism from India directly or through Java with the expansion of empire Hindu-Buddhism scenario, from Java to Bali since the beginning of the 9th century.

The system and the nuclei structure such as traditional villagers life with its Banjar bonded by the concept of the Three Temples, Khayangan Tiga (Puseh, Desa, Dalem) and Family Temple (Sanggah / Merajan) as well as agricultural organizations called subak which is expected to be applied in Bali since the beginning of the 11th century until now remained a strong presence even in the city. Traditional religious social institutions such as Desa Adat, Banjar and Subak are regarded as the pillars which supporting the preservation of the Balinese culture. The tradition World teaches philosophy of the balance between physical-spiritual needs as a source of happiness which will be reached when there is a balance between body, social and spiritual needs. This conception is commonly known as Tri Hita Karana.

The modern world (western) entrance to Bali since the early of 17th century with the coming of European explorers (Netherlands) to the archipelago with a commercial motive, search and trade for spices. The sailors and merchants were also came to Bali, then trade with the Kings in Bali. The spices hunt then become colonization to the archipelago by the Dutch.

In the beggining of 1990, Bali with the unique culture packaged by the Dutch and started to sell as a tourist product. Cultural tourism initially acted only by a handful of West elite (Europe, USA), to enjoying the beautiful tropical island with a rich culture and unique (exotic), has now become a tourism that brings people from different parts of the Earth, which reach more than one million visitors each year. They are pleased to came to Bali, to enjoy the Bali’s culture, many of them came to remove the routine’s boredom of their lives as well as for the benefit of their businesses and settled in Bali instead. The results of several studies and surveys do show that most tourists who came to Bali motivated by the uniqueness of Balinese culture.

Dutch could control the overall Bali in 1908 through ruthless conquest that has been widely criticized in Europe. To improve the image, Netherlands rushed in create some policies to protect and preserve Bali to remain “traditional”. Bali studied and written in detail and systematic by the Dutch scholars. A policy which according to Adrian Vickers, Australian scholar, in his book ‘Bali: A Paradise Created ‘ only intended to sold Bali as tourism product.

Then, in 1914, Dutch has published tourist brochure about Bali as “enchanting island”, “temple and castle island”, “island of the Gods” and “a place of topless women”. Starting in the years, Dutch brings elite tourists to Bali continuously. In 1925 the Dutch built Bali hotel in Denpasar – the first hotel in Bali. Among the elite tourists there are an artist, anthropologist and writers and by their interpretation began to thicken Bali’s image in the world as a paradise paradise in the 1930s . And the image is remains attached until now.

After Indonesian independence era, the efforts to develop Bali’s potential as a tourist destination become an important agenda of President Sukarno; as well as President Suharto, and continues until now. The construction of luxury hotels Bali Beach Hotel by Soekarno and the development of Nusa Dua luxury tourism complex by Suharto with the Master Plan in 1971 by a French company, SCETO, which is followed up by the development of 12 luxury Bali hotels along with the supporting facilities are the early examples of these efforts. Bali bomb in 2002 have made Bali tourism slumped but slowly recovering.

The dynamics of the Bali Performing Arts in the Tourism Context

Traditional Cultural Performing Arts is the most concrete cultural elements which could be offered to tourists because of the universal nature of the dance and the music accompanying it is easier to enjoy (appreciated) by travelers without deep involvement, and could be packaged easily to be performed in hotels, including exhibited abroad in the form of artistic mission for tourism promotion. Balinese performing arts reputation has been widely recognized both by specialists and tourists in general. Performing arts are one of the most important assets of cultural tourism image.

Balinese performing arts in general can be categorized into three: wali (sacred performing art), which is only done when the ritual worship; bebali is performance which dedicated to the ceremony but also for visitors, and balih-balihan that are for mere entertainment in public places. Categorizing is confirmed in 1971 by Majelis Pertimbangan dan Pembinaan Kebudayaan (LISTIBIYA) Bali in response to the over-expanding of the sacred performance arts to tourism. The meeting recommended that the wali and bebali performing arts are not commercialized. Bandem and deBoer in a book titled ‘Kaja and kelod: Balinese Dance in Transition’, in detail classify the performing arts in Bali until the early 1980s. Belong to the Wali for example: Berutuk, Sang Hyang Dedari, Rejang and Baris Gede; bebali like: Gambuh, Mask Pajegan, Wayang Wong, and balih-balihan are: Legong, Parwa, Arja, Prembon, and Joged.

The complete writing about the Drama Performing Arts and Dance of Bali firstly published in 1938. This book was written by Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete. Walter Spies is very well known name of a foreigner in Bali. He came and settled in Bali from 1927 until the Japanese colonial era in the early 1940s; musician and painter, who has a very deep interest to Bali performing arts. His role in the early of Bali cultural tourism development was very crucial because the foreigners who come to Bali at that time trusted him to provide a cultural experience, especially Bali performing arts. Traditional performing arts become a common menu for visitors in that era.

It is conceivable that a drama and dance are often not fully understood by tourists mainly causing by the language; as well as the hectic tour schedule. Then the intervention was carried out by travel agents so that the show can be shortened to a format that can be understood and enjoyed by travelers. Mix genres began to emerge that combine one with another genre, such as Cak blend with the Ramayana story of Sang Hyang Dedari’s vocals performed by Spies and a dancer named Limbak, or Barong dance and Kris dance with footage of the Mahabharata story.

Cultural Tourism’s Impact to The Traditional Performing Arts

Besides the problems of com-modification and milling, a frequent problem being discussed is the lack of respect or appreciation towards the tourism entrepreneurs to the traditional artists. And the payments are still relatively low given the performing arts are often positioned as an event complementary, like a dinner at a hotel / restaurant. The artist was given a modest facility and are often not introduced properly. How deep the appreciation can occur when the attention of the audience to be divided between eating food and watching the show?

It is common knowledge that in places where local tourism show or drivers who take tourists get a commission of 25-50% of the price of admission. Similarly, the art broker (intermediary between the artist and the buyer) take a high percentage of the price offered so that wages received by the artist is very small. This may be caused by the large number of artists / arts groups in Bali, coupled with a lack of knowledge and managerial capabilities, and because of the cultural traditions ‘ngayah’ (show as an offering and inner satisfaction) are still strong among the instigators of art.

Indeed, there are a handful of Bali hotels and tourism spectacle that are trying to position the traditional performing arts as a special offer to their guests. Featured artist is qualified artists or famous artists; staging is not as spectacle at meals; existing efforts to provide good information (education) to guests, and they are willing to give the price offered by the artists. Artists who have been convinced by their capability usually dare to set high prices. All of this can happen with the diversity of the tourists who come. There are tourists who are satisfied with just seeing the show, there are also willing to look the best.

The positive impact of tourism can be attributed to an increase in the quantity of this type of art and the amount of artists, and the general increase in income. The artists look forward to the opportunity to perform at the hotel because of more frequent or routine rather than a show for the ceremony. Keep in mind that the performing arts can never be separated from the rituals believed to be continued. Rituals involve some form of performance as Sang Hyang, wayang lemah, mask Pajegan, pendet, various types of sacred dance line, and still within the context of the ritual but also for entertainment like wayang kulit at night, Calon arang, or gambuh.

A prominent young artists in Bali (I Nyoman Budiarta from Batuan Gianyar) have different views of what is feared by scholars that the tourism could erode the quality of traditional arts. He argues that the tourism giving more positive impact than negative. Routine performing gives more opportunity to practice so that make the art will be more creative and varied. He is not concerned if the show is done when the dinner because he believes that the tourists will pay more attention to the staging of the show when the artisans perform quality performances.

Studies of tourism in Bali has been running for almost a century is still quite limited in general are not comparable with the existence of tourism that has been so dominant in Bali. The same thing happens in the traditional performing arts in relation to tourism. Tourism, which has enormous consequences on the livelihood of the people of Bali need to get serious studies mainly short-term impacts on the sustainability of nature and the culture of Bali.

There are many routine performing arts for tourism in Bali, if you are interesting in practicing and watching them you may select a Bali car rental with driver or Bali tour package to take you there.

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