A BEDHAYA KETAWANG DANCER (SURAKARTA)

 

Photo of Bedhaya Ketawang dancers

 

The Bedhaya Ketawang Dance

 

The Bedhaya (Bedoyo) is a sacred dance of Java, Indonesia, considered as pusaka/heirloom and associated with the royal palaces of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Along with the Serimpi Dance, the Bedhaya Dance epitomized the elegant (halus) character of the royal court. They are performed by princesses or daughters of the ruling family. Serimpi portrays one or two duelling pairs of Amazons who move in unison, fighting with dainty daggers and tiny bows and arrows.

 

Although there is some evidence for the existence of Bedhaya created by Sultan Agung in Java from as early as the Majapahit Empire, the existence of the dance is not clearly documented until the late 18th century.

 

The Bedaya Ketawang was thought to have been created by the Goddess of the South Sea, Kangjeng Ratu Kidul for Sultan Panembahan Senopati, the founder of the Mataram Dynasty, the nine dancers representing the spirit of the goddess. When the Mataram Kingdom was finally divided into Surakarta and Yogyakarta in 1755, Bedhaya evolved into two different forms in the two court cities - the Bedhaya Ketawang in Surakarta (Solo), and the Bedhaya Semang (Yogyakarta) created by Sultan Hamengkubuwono II, which is no longer performed.

 

The Bedhaya Ketawang is performed once a year on the second day of the Javanese month of Ruwah (during May), to commemorate the ascension of the current Susuhunan (prince) of Surakarta. All rehearsals and the performance must be accompanied by offerings. The dancers must fast and undergo ritual purification, and they must be in bridal dress and cover the upper part of their bodies in turmeric.

 

Together with the singing of men and women, Bedhaya Ketawang is accompanied by a gamelan set consisting of just five instruments with a seven-tone scale known as Pelog. The instruments include Kendhang (a small wooden drum covered with leather at each end), Gong, Kethuk, Kenong (small gong), and Kemanak (percussion). Rebab was only used to accompany the nine dancers as they entered the stage. In the Yogyakarta kraton, where the dance is now no longer performed, a complete gamelan orchestra had been used as accompaniment.

 

A fascinating video on this type of performance can be seen at this link:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZRo3OwCwy8

 

Creating the figure

 

The headdress is garlanded with flowers, and the bare-shouldered dancer wears a dark blue sarong with gold embroidery with two stoles in front which is constantly picked up and held in the hands.  There is a train of the same material as the stole which is constantly flicked about by the dancer who wears gold jewelry.

 

As there is currently no production set on the Kraton dances, we explored the creation of a unique figure from spare castings used in our production.  The head and upper torso was taken from our production figure for a seated woman musician.  The lower seated legs were removed and the upper torso was joined to the lower part of the Balinese Legong dance figure.  The arms were taken from the Kebyar dance figure.

 

Further sculpting on clothing and details were done in epoxy putty.

 

              

Modified Figure fully assembled

The final figure was created in the same aesthetic style as our production range of Series A and Series B figures.

                   

Unique Figure painted as a Bedhaya Ketawang Dancer