Thursday, September 18, 2008


The most famous of all Javanese court dances is the bedoyo ketawang, performed in the Surakarta palace on the anniversary of the Susuhunan's coronation.

This is a sacred and private ritual dance said to have been instituted by Sultan Agung in the early 1600s, the greatest of the Mataram kings.

It celebrates a reunion between the descendant of the dynasty's founder, Panembahan Senapati, and the powerful goddess of the South Seas, Kyai Loro Kidul.

Nine female palace guards perform the stately bedoyo ketawang, attired in royal wedding dress, and so sacred is it that they may rehearse only once every five weeks on a given day.

Until recently, no outsiders were permitted to witness the performance, for it is claimed that Loro Kidul herself attends and afterwards "weds" the king.

The other important Javanese court dance, Serimpi, was traditionally performed only by princesses or daughters of the ruling family.

It portrays one or two duelling pairs of Amazons who move in unison, fighting with dainty daggers and tiny bows and arrows. Following the of dance schools in the early 1900s, it became the standard taught to all young women.

The reliefs at Borobudur, depicting popular dances and musical entertainment, suggest that dance once figured prominently in Javanese life. However, outside of the courts, very little dancing remains in the area today.