Balinese Dance Master Celebrates 75 Years on the Stage

Ida Bagus Oka Wirjana's impressive career has been commemorated in dance, words and pictures at a special program of events hosted by Bentara Budaya Bali. (JG Photo/Nadia Bintoro)

A burning flame sliced through the piercing darkness as the music started to pulsate. Our eyes focused to reveal the torch bearing the flame, held by a shirtless man in white pants. His sudden presence caught everyone off guard.

Coming from backstage, he danced his way through the crowd of people who were patiently waiting in front of the main atrium. His moves created havoc and confusion among the spectators who thought the performance would be presented on the main stage as is commonly done.

Instead, he navigated his way through the front lawn of Bentara Budaya Bali, through the trees, to the small bungalow at the side.

Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, he herded the expectant crowd to the first part of the performance. There, five young men in all-white attire danced to the instruction of a teacher. Together they depicted the first scene of a colossal collaboration dance performance titled “The Journey of Life” as part of series of events run in tribute to maestro Balinese dancer, Ida Bagus Oka Wirjana’s 75th Diamond Anniversary.

As the event’s name suggests, 84-year-old Ida Bagus has spent 75 years dedicated to Balinese dance and is most famous for his vivacity in dancing Tari Kebyar Duduk — an intricate individual piece performed mainly from a seated position.

He has won many awards and performed at many prestigious events including the presidential palace as well as Europe, America, Japan, Pakistan, Hawaii and Sweden among others.

He was recently given the title of “Balinese Dance Maestro.”

As a tribute to Ida Bagus’s 75 years dedication, Bentara Budaya Bali in collaboration with Yayasan Tetamian Griya Blangsinga organized a special program of events from Sept. 28 to Oct. 7.

The event saw the maestro himself dance in a classical performance alongside his family members and prominent names from the world of dance such as Ni Luh Menek from Buleleng, Jro Puspawati and Ni Ketut Arini.

A special art exhibition is also taking place in Bentara Budaya Bali during the period.

Organized by the Lingkara PhotoArt Community, around 14 photographers presented their works. Together they attempt to elevate the definition of photography into a unique form of art.

Rather than printing the photos on normal photo paper, the photographers rejoice in their freedom to experiment in delivering the photographs in various other less traditional media, such as suar wood, lenticular plastic, and canvas.

A series of photographs printed on plastic by Indra Widi are paired with essays on the life of Ida Bagus Blangsinga creating a transparent story book that is not only pleasing on the eye, but provides context in savoring the artworks.

Other than the photographs, sculptures by Serbian artist, Irina Perisic Bosnjak as well as by Ida Bagus Alit and Carola Vooges are also showcased in the exhibition.

In addition to the special tribute to Ida Bagus Blangsinga, other events being held at Bentara Budaya facilities across Indonesia include “Wangsa Cirebon-Dermayu” at Bentara Budaya Jakarta; “Giriloyo Batik: From Period to Period” at Bentara Budaya Yogyakarta; and “Coastal Tegal’s Puppets” at Balai Soedjatmoko in Solo, Central Java.

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