Bedaya Ketawang

Yesterday, my friend, Yudhiakto Pramudya, reminded me about a traditional dance. It’s called Bedaya Ketawang that emerged in the early seventeenth century in the Javanese state of Mataram and commemorates the coronation of the king of Surakarta, one of the two Mataram Kingdom divisions. In Java, Indonesia, bedaya are dancers who perform ritual court dances. Bedaya are living embodiments of traditional Javanese high culture, and in addition to dance are expected to be proficient in the Javanese language and literature, as well as able to practice batik and the healing arts.

Bedaya Ketawang Dance
Bedaya Ketawang Dance

Bedaya Ketawang is one of sacred dance in Central Java. The movements in this Bedaya Ketawang dance are very simple, with few ornaments, and the instrumentation for the accompanying gendhing is not as full as the gamelan used for wayang or shadow puppet theatre. The patterns of dance are simple, the movements sway smoothly, as if following the breathing pattern of the dancers. It seems to contain sequence of body movements which have the goal of controlling fluctuating emotions, so that what appears gives an impression of a continuous flow, calm, without ripples or erratic movements or even explosions.
The dance depicts the relationship between Panembahan Senopati, the first ruler of Mataram, and Kanjeng Ratu Kidul (Her Majesty Queen of The South Sea), the goddess of the sea and protector of the royal family.
The dance is performed by nine bedayas wearing the makeup and dress of brides. The dancers prepare for the dance as they would for a marriage ceremony, and the hour long dance is open only to selected audiences who refrain from smoking, drinking, and eating. Some believe that a tenth dancer is the goddess herself, she also performs and can be seen by some people.

This story is a legend, but the fact that it’s used as a theme in the court dance suggests that it is in the official chronicles of the Babad Kraton Mataram. Things I can get that dancing is an educational process to acquire an ideal personality in the view of Javanese life. An ideal personality is one which is able to control emotions with movement and behaviour patterns, or body language, which in interpersonal relationships always shows self restraint and allows others to take the initiative. A personality which is almost passive and easily ashamed when acting outside the norms. These norms become the basis for reacting to the patterns of dance movements taught. High technical discipline is obligatory, as discipline in the details of movement performed also reflects the discipline in implementation of social order.

Bedaya Ketawang Dance
Bedaya Ketawang Dance

Note:

  • Pictures are taken from http://heritageofjava.com/
  • Some historical information is taken fromKitab Wedbapradangga
  • Some terms are taken from Encyclopedia of Modern Asia Summary
This story is a legend, but the fact that it is used as a theme in the court dance suggests that it is in the official chronicles of the Babad Kraton Mataram.

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