The Dance of Bali
Combining spiritual, mystical and timeless form

by Amy Swan
Special to West Hawaii Today

Friday, February 22, 2008 8:49 AM HST

The two-member dance company Purnama Sari brought ancient and
timeless Balinese dance to life before an appreciative and
spellbound audience at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel Saturday

In this first-time West Hawaii appearance by the dance company, the
intimate venue was prepared with gold umbrellas to symbolize
protection, and ritually blessed with holy water, hinting at the mystical
experience to come as dancer Surapsari appeared to open the
performance with a dance of welcome and blessing for the Balinese
deities and audience, as well.

Accompanied by the ethereal sounds of Balinese flute and percussion
instruments, Surapsari appeared in a dazzling traditional design fuchsia
and gold costume to display the highly stylized and otherworldly
movements characteristic of Balinese temple dance. This solo dance
featured the scattering of flowers to symbolize the blessings conferred and
effectively immersed the assembly into the mystical world of Bali,

The program continued with alternating solo performances by Surapsari
and her husband, Indra, each presenting a traditional character in
Balinese legend and culture including warriors, a princess and a foolish
old man. The presentation titled "Baris" depicted the archetypical hero
preparing for the challenges of life in moving forward, retreating and
standing firm. In this dance, Indra wore an intricate headdress with a forest
of moving pieces pointing toward the heavens along with a heavily beaded
and fringed costume.  He used movement to depict the character's
struggle to prepare for the tasks of life and culminating in peaceful

Surapsari also performed a warrior dance called "Taruna Jaya," using a
fan to emphasize the struggle of her character in transformation.  Intricate
hand movements slowly revealing her face were meant to represent
"taking away the veils of life to see the reality of life," according to Indra.
Copyright © 2013 Purnama Sari Balinese Dance Company.
All rights reserved.
Indra's dance titled "Jauk Manis" paid homage to the Balinese trickster figure, and his costumes included an elaborate mask and headdress
complete with mother-of-pearl teeth and burning incense. This playful character, which is present in purpose of Balinese dance as a unifying
medium and is categorized as a magical dance.

Big Island residents Indra and Surapsari bring impressive credentials to their craft. Each holds a graduate degree from Lesley University in
Massachusetts having specialized in interdisciplinary studies and intercultural relations, respectively.

well as priests for whom this art is a way of life. Surapsari has also published a book on Balinese culture and dance titled "My Bali."

To those more accustomed to Western dance expression forms, this performance was filled with unexpected, unfamiliar, and sometimes jarring
elements integral to the rich layers of meaning and purpose for which Balinese sacred dance was created.

Instead of being a creative form of self expression, these dances are meant to influence the mystical forces of the spirit world that permeate the
culture of Bali. Indra notes that the audience is meant to experience the essence of the performance being transmitted by the dancer who is
trained to "empty themselves" in preparation for the ritual.

This sentiment is captured in the traditional statement Indra shares: "Don't look at how I'm dancing. Look at the dance." Nevertheless, the
unique elements of the dance form are captivating. For example, specialized eye movements called "Seledet" transmit the spiritual energy of
the deities and the repeated stepping from side to side brings opposing world forces into harmony.

Even movements of individual fingers carry meaning and power in these exotic dances. Understanding these features allows deeper
appreciation of the dances performed, beyond the beauty and skill apparent on the surface.

To experience the artistry of Purnama Sari is to become intrigued by the mystical and magical culture of Bali along with the performers who
have dedicated themselves to illuminating this world. Indra explains that the Balinese "worship the elements and ancestral deities" as a way of
life, a world view borne of their agrarian lifestyle that continues today. Ritual dance brings the world of spirit into tangible form to make it
accessible, holding the fabric of the two dimensions together. Indra further explains that Balinese culture emphasizes "the whole being" rather
than the factual and rational perspective of the West, thus requiring ritual to unify disparate elements of good and evil, male and female, yin
and yang, and spirit and form. The religious roots of the dance include a mix of Indian Hinduism, Tantric Buddhism, and native animism that
combine to form the spiritual life of Bali. As such, Balinese ritual dance is complex and "of the earth," which is a dichotomy in itself.

This outstanding performance represents just one aspect of Purnama Sari's repertoire. The couple also conducts workshops exploring the
principles and origins of Balinese spirituality and dance as well as instruction in the ritual dance techniques themselves. They have created a
children's performance featuring the traditional Indian epic, Ramayana, which is a classic struggle between good and evil. In addition to this
dance, the children's program includes presentation of another Hindu myth, Mahabharata, presented through the traditional art of Balinese
shadow puppetry brought to life by their associate, Lee Michael Walczuk. The dance company has been performing and teaching nationally
since 2000, and for Big Island audiences for the past two years, and they hope to become more active in West Hawaii in the future.

An opportunity to experience the magic and mysticism of traditional Balinese temple dancing is rare outside of Bali itself, and Purnama Sari
offers audiences this rare gift as an offering to Big Island residents simultaneously with performing the ritual for the Balinese deities themselves.
It is an art form to enjoy for its obvious exotic beauty but is best appreciated in the context of the complex and ancient cultural roots from which
it springs.

For more information about Purnama Sari and upcoming performances, information is available at http://www.PurnamaSariBali.com on the
Indra performs the dance Baris. The solo Baris, or warrior
dance, was extracted from the ancient depicts a heroic figure
preparing for the battle of life, learning to advance, retreat and
hold his position. - Photos By Baron Sekiya | West Hawaii
Surapsari performs Taruna Jaya, a warrior dance performed
warrior facing the challenges of transformation.