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TRANCE AND DANCE IN BALI

Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

Character Formation in Different Cultures: A Series Produced by Gregory Bateson & Margaret Mead With assistance from Committee for Research in Dementia Precox Supported through the 33rd degree Scottish Rite, North Masonic Jurisdiction, Cambridge University, The American Museum of Natural History, Department of Child Study, Vassar College. Records a performance of the Balinese ceremonial kris (dagger) dance-drama, which depicts the neverending struggle between witch (death-dealing) and dragon (life-protecting), as it was given in the village of Pagoetan in the late 1930s. The dancers experience violent trance seizures, turn their krises against their breasts without injury, and are restored to consciousness with incense and holy water. Narrated by Margaret Mead against a background of Balinese music. From the Character Formation in Different Cultures series. Produced by Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead. 1952 (anthropology) Recommended reading from C2O collection: Spies, Walter & de Zoete, Beryl (2002 [1938]). Dance & Drama in Bali. Singapore: Periplus. [Call No.: 791.319923 SPI Dan]

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Notes TEXT Character Formation in Different Cultures: A Series Produced by Gregory Bateson & Margaret Mead With assistance from Committee for Research in Dementia Precox Supported through the 33rd degree Scottish Rite, North Masonic Jurisdiction, Cambridge University, The American Museum of Natural History, Department of Child Study, Vassar College.

TRANCE AND DANCE IN BALI


Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

TEXT Trance occurs in Bali in many different forms. One of the most spectacular is the Kris Dance in which men and women turn their krisses against their breasts, without injuring themselves. One form of the Kris Dance combines this religious practice with a Balinese dramatic theme, the conflict between the witch and the dragon. This story, which has many versions, was given this way in the village of Pagoetan in 1937-1939. In this play, the witch, angered by the kings refusal to marry her daughter, sends forth her disciples to spread plague. The villagers wander the road trying to escape the plague. There is a struggle between the witch in a masked, supernatural form, and the emissary of the king, who fails to kill her, and is transformed into a dragon. The followers of the dragon are thrown into a deep trance by the witch, revived by the dragon into a somnambulistic state, and turn their krisses violently against themselves. The performance ends with ceremonies for bringing the actors out of trance. The play begins outside the temple, to the music of an orchestra.

Trance and Dance in Bali Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

02:13

The little disciples of the witch dance and prepare to receive the witchs instructions.

02:38

This is the witch in all her supernatural paraphernaliahairy legs, pendulous breasts, long fingernails, but without the mask thatll transform her into a supernatural figure. Beside her, is her daughter, whos been rejected by the king of the country. In revenge for the slight to her daughter shes now training her little novices to spread pestilence and death. Kneeling in front of her, they answer her instructions on how to spread plague. They go off, and the next scene shows a pregnant woman among a group of people whove fled their plague-stricken village to wander the road.

04:07

This is the birth scene, where the pregnant woman, played by a man, gives birth to a child, while the witches lurk around to steal the newborn child, a doll, which is stolen by the witch-child, tossed in the air, and returned dead to its mourning relatives.

04:36

The villagers mourn for the dead child, putting on a theatrical display of grief.

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The witcheswitch-child and witchlurk about, and tease the mortals, to whom theyre not yet quite visible.

04:55

As they become visible, the mortals chase the witches. The witch child is caught and held by the hair, a demeaning gesture.

05:13

In just a minute now youll see the witch in her supernatural form at the gate of the temple, attacked by the emissary of the king who failed to conquer her. She wears over her face a white cloththe cloths in which the mother carries her baby. And now coming down the temple steps, the witch dances alone. The figures is both frightening, and representing fear itself. These are the frightening witches into which the beautiful little girls of the bale have been transformed. Again the witch dances alone.

Trance and Dance in Bali Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

And heres the dragon, arrived to confront her. As she represents death, he represents life. They have a long ordered talk in ancient, ecclesiastical Javanese, while she holds him by his beard, and scolds him.

These are the dragons followers, falling to the ground at the glance of the witch, up again when she turns her back, down again when she looks. She flips through their ranks, runs away, and as theyre back in trance, up they get again.

They rush to attack, but as she turns, her glance forces them back, back, back. And she dances and laughs, laughs, and then turns away, indifferent. This is slow motion: followers of the dragons advance, their krisses raised in the air, ready for the attack, but falling down again before her glance.

Normal scene: the witch dances again, and then two by two, they run up, and attack her. She doesnt resistshes as limp as as a rag doll, but overcome by her power, they fall, and lie in a deep trance, on the ground. And two more come up, fall down. Members of the trance dance come and arrange them on the ground, while another pair attack the witch.

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They lie arranged in two rows in deep trance, whole bodies twitching. And the dragon comes back to revive them, walking between the rows, followed by his priest, who sprinkles the holy water over them.

Revived, they go off stage, not out of trance, but in a somnambulistic stage in which they come back in, dancing. The witch meanwhile has fallen into a deep trance, and been carried away. The dance in slow motion.

10:33

Here comes the women, also in a balian formation. They do not attack the witch. But as a sign is given by one of their number, they suddenly go into a trance, and with loosened her, trying to stick their krisses against their breast, falling forward.

This one is struggling on the kris. In the background you see the men also in trance, and here in slow motion you see the women.

Trance and Dance in Bali Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

The fumes of the incense that is being carried among them to come blend with their loosened hair.

This old woman has said that shell not go in trance. But when others begin to turn their krisses against themselves, she joins them. If anyone becomes too violent they are disarmed.

There are frequent periods like this of turning and waiting, then someone gives a violent scream and they again turn their krisses on themselves. The priest of the dragon moves among them, sprinkling them with the holy water.

Now at normal pace, you see the man, bending their krisses against themselves, and unlike the women, often fall into the ground. See how that kris is bent? No one gets hurt. If anyone gets hurt, they say the trance is not real.

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A male trancer is being carried off to the temple, in a stiff epileptic state. Another has been disarmed.

A third puts his head into the dragons mouth, and the dragon holds him by the hair to come. Another falls to the ground in a particularly violent state. Another trancer is being carried into the temple court. And another

In slow motion again you see the locals contorted in seeming agony on the face of his trance.

14:35

TEXT The theatrical part of the performance is over, as one by one, the trancers have fallen into a rigid, limp, or convulsive state of unconsciousness and been carried into the temple courtyard, where they will be brought out of trance.

Trance and Dance in Bali Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

Inside the temple the people arrange the trancers in group to be brought out of trance. Here a group of boystrancers lying along the wall in deep shadowis given incense and the holy water. They pass the holy water on their chest.

15:27

This is the old woman who said she wouldnt go in trance today, lying now in deep trance.

Another woman is being brought to herself by having her hair done up.

15:44

This one is still in deep trance and children with anxious faces watch from the background.

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16:09

The trancers bury their faces in the fumes of the incense and slowly come out of trance.

Heres the old woman again, unwilling to come back to herself, remembering her dances.

17:09

And finally the priest brings special offerings to the spirit that possesses her, to persuade it to leave her body. The priest made the offerings of flowers and rice on the ground, while she continues to dance. At last, she holds out her hand to the holy water as a sign that shes willing to come out of trance.

A dog comes and eats the offerings being presented.

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Trance and Dance in Bali Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

The old woman rises, still half-dazed, and walks over to where the closing ceremony is being held, where the dragon man behind the mask, the principal actors in the play, come for a final ritual offering before the ceremony is ended. A chicken is brought, blessed for the offering, by the priest of the dragon.

The white-haired old man on his right plays the front leg of the dragon.

The chicken is offered.

20:03

This black-haired man is the man who plays the witch, and has been lying in deep cataleptic trance.

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He sits among the offerings, not yet quite out of trance. He breathes in the incense, takes the holy water, and sprinkles the old man who plays the front leg of the dragon.

The ritual is finished. Here we see the old man just coming out of trance, not yet quite himself. The play is over but it will be given again and again as the Balinese reenact the struggle between fear and death and life-protecting in ritual.

TEXT

THE END
Publications: BALINESE CHARACTER By Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead GROWTH AND CULTURE By Margaret Mead and Francis Macgregor HOUSE IN BALI by Colin McPhe BARONG AND RANGDA by Jane Belo

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Trance and Dance in Bali Photography by Gregory Bateson and Jane Belo Edited by Josef Bohmer Music arranged by Colin McPhee Written & narrated by Margaret Mead

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