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Directory Home> Bali Dances> Dance and Religion
 
DANCE AND RELIGION
 
Dances in Bali are both secular and religious, and are divided into three types; namely, wali, bebali and balih-balihan, depending on which part of the temple they are performed. Wali dances such as the baris gede and sang hyang are the most sacred and are performed in the inner sanctum of the temple. Ceremonial in nature, bebali dances take place in the middle courtyard. Balih-balihan dances are secular and are usually performed in the outer courtyard of the temple. However, this distinction is not strictly adhered to, and the time, place and occasion may dictate the performance of a particular dance.

In Balinese society, therefore, dance performs various functions:

a) as a channel for visiting gods or demonic gods, the dancers acting as a sort of living repostry. These trance dances include the Sang Hyang Dedari, with little virgin girls in trance, and the Sang Hyang Jaran, a fire dance, when the male dancer dances on glowing ember.
b) as a welcome for visiting gods, such as the pendet, rejang and sutri dances.
c) as entertainment for visiting gods, such as the topeng and the wayang.

In some of these dances, the role of dancing is so important that it is actually the key to any meaning to be found in the ritual. In wayang performances, the puppeteer often plays the role of a priest to sanctify the holy water.

As well as their use in religious ceremonies, dance and drama also have a strong religious content. It is often said that drama is the preferred medium through which the Balinese cultural tradition is transmitted. The episodes performed are usually related to the rites taking place; during a wedding one performs a wedding story; at a death ritual there is a visit to "hell" by the heroes. Penasar (clowns) comment in Balinese, peppering their jokes with religious and moral comments on stories whose narratives use Kawi (OldJavanese).
 
 
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