Javanese Art Performances

A visit to Yogyakarta would not be complete without taking the time to enjoy the spell of the gamelan orchestra and the colorful performances of Javanese dance groups. Below thus is just a short list, as there are other performances that can be arranged as well from the classical repertoire and for which the organizers have contacts as well. On top of that you may have a choice of more contemporary progressive acts which also include traditional or say classical Javanese elements. For these we can also arrange with some recognized choreographers and artists.Yogyakarta indeed is still very rich with performing arts, and the organizers have rich networks amongst the local and provincial rings of artists here as some of our friends are artists themselves.See Images section

Wayang Kulit: The famous classical Javanese shadow puppets show accompanied by the gamelan orchestra, led by the figure of the Dhalang who narrates the stories taken from the Ramayana or Mahabharata Indian epics. Yet stories from historical early Javanese kingdoms are also performed with this media, especially those related to the Wayang Gedhog repertoire on the 4 original East Javanese Mojopahit Kingdoms of Daha, Kahuripan, Jenggolo and Singosari. Some wayang shows also tell the Mataram Kingdom cycle of stories involving King Senopati, Sultan Agung and their Dutch enemies. Traditionally the Wayang Kulit is performed as an all-night event (9pm-4am) yet shows can be customized to the desired length of time (approx. 2 hours or a bit more). The Gamelan orchestra is vital here, and they play both typical Javanese rhythms and melodies(pelog/slendro), very different in atmosphere than Bali.

Wayang Wong:  These are various types of ballet or dances with human dancers, dressed in full costumes according to the stories also taken usually from the Mahabharata or Ramayana. There are specific female dances and mixed dances. Most famous is the Ramayana Ballet performed in the evening at the Prambanan Temples.

Wayang Topeng: Very similar to the Wayang Wong, yet here the dancers are masked with beautiful Javanese masks. Stories are taken from the Panji-cycle, or known as Wayang Gedhog about the early kingdoms in Java Timur. 3 to 4 hours shows, very rare even in Yogyakarta; it is definitely a soon to be extinct art-form as far as public performances are concerned. Only one group still faithfully trains and performs from the Gunungkidul district east ofYogyakarta. They need support to keep it alive and encourage younger generations to get involved. This performance comes much recommended.

Nini Thowong: A spirit play, involving the possession of a life-size doll of a Princess, which is being held by 4 people (including spectators from the audience eventually) and accompanied by a gamelan orchestra playing a trance rhythm. A pawang or dukun is leading the play and interacts with the two familiar spirits in the doll. Also a rare and endangered performing art.

Jathilan: Famous and popular trance dance, also known as Reog or Kuda Lumping. Different variants according to regions, yet the point is to get the dancers dressed as classical warriors in a state of possession trance with familiar spirits in the hobbyhorses and masks worn by the dancers. Accompanied by a very trance beat of gamelan and drums. Several pamongs or dukun maintain a barrier and watch over the safety of the dancers, and eventually exorcise them one by one in a spectacular fashion. The stories are based around legends and lore from the time of the first Javanese Kingdoms and Mojopahit era.


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