(Update Mey 01 '08)
Saturday night is getting underway in a village near Lovina. A crowd of all ages gathers around a simple, dimly-lit stage decorated with young leaves. A few tourists sit down in the front row on shaky bamboo chairs, nervously clutching their cameras. A gamelan orchestra fills the air with soft beats, which are soon drowned out by applause and whistles as hundred of local viewers, shaking with excitement, push and shove to get closer to the stage.
The stage curtain shielding the backstage area starts to quiver. As the orchestra’s intensity rises, a heavily made-up dancer waves out from behind the curtain, alluringly spinning her fan while staring at the audience, her pupils twitching from side to side. Her fast, rhythmic writhing matches the dynamic percussion. As flashes from the tourists’ cameras bounce off the dancer, the impatient audience start yelling her name, holding their hands out to the stage. The most daring wave to the tourists, contorting their faces to be immortalized by the foreigners’ cameras.
The Dancer searches for the first man to be dijawat-pulled from the audience to be her dance partner. All the men near the stage reach out, only to be disappointed when she points at an old foreigner, who heads up to the stage accompanied by a burst of catcalls. The dancer’s hip thrusts get more energitic as she circles the grey-haired traveler, who laughs embarrassedly as the audience scream : “Break-dance, Sir! Monkey dance,Sir! Rock n’ roll, rock n’ roll!” Insipred, the man starts an imination of Elvis Presley, while the delighted viewers clap, laughting at his attemps to match the girl’s grace and energy. After a few minutes, the sweating victim is sent back into the crowd, replaced by another pengibing (male patner). As the night progress, defferent men are given their chance to show their talent onstage, competing to throw their hips at the dancer, who mockingly escapes or pushed them away.
Joged bumbung used to be entertainment for hard working farmers, part of the thanksgiving celebrations after rice harvests.it is said to have originated in the fertile area of Munduk in north Bali. “Joged” refers to folk dances, usually those that allow audience members to participate, and “bumbung” is the bamboo gamelan that backs up the dancers. Similar dance forms are popular on neighbouring Java.
65-year-old Putu Regep has managed the sekehe joged (joged association) in his village for decades. His Lestari Budaya (“Everlasting Culture”) group was born in 1979, and now 27 members, including 4 dancers and 18 gamelan players, plus makeup artists and support personnel. A winner of countless local trophies, the group services large events like the Bali Arts Festival and also temple rituals or family celebrations. It has performed in almost every hotel and village hall in Bali.
Twenty-two year-old Ni Kadek Wartini, one of Lestari Budaya’s most senior dancers, has become a symbol of the group. She clearly isn’t in it for the money. “The income is very small. I get about Rp20.000 each time I perform,” she explains. Most dancers start out young and inexperinced. The group trains them, and gas agreed upon rules to ensure that their investment pays off. Each member commits to not marry for marry for three years after joining the troupe. If they break this promise, they have to pay 300kg of rice or Rp900.000. However, explains Kadek, “dancers usually last at most five years in our group. This ensure a faster regeneration.”
Joged bumbung has gone through many changes. It has been combined with other dances, such as the Indian and Arabic-inspired Malay dangdut or the Sundanese jaipong. In Buleleng, there is even a trend of joged porno, in which the dancers rear end becomes a main attraction. These erotic wrigglings are recorded and sold on video CDs. “Joged has become too commercial, they’re forgetting the artustic element to chase money and fun,”chides Putu Regep.
But for Kadek Wartini, the sexy movements are the key to her dancing. “ What would joged mean without that?” she ask. “It’s natural, and there’s no reason to deny the changing times. Also, this is what the audience wants. If we don’t really work it, they throw stuff at us or ask us to get off the stage!” Dancers’ shaking hips and audience is uniqe flavour. “The important thing is that the audience is satisfied. Joges was made to have fun,” Kadek concludes. Around the stage in Lovina, tourists and locals are living out her words, whistling, clapping and twisting into the wee hours of the morning.