Baris: Bali’s Male Dance

Dance is arguably inseparable from the daily lives of Balinese people. This art form is not only merely a form of entertainment but also has traditionally complemented the various religious rituals extent on the island. Certain Balinese dance is regarded as ritual, and one among many is the male or masculine dance known as Tari Baris or Baris dance. In Balinese tradition, this particular dance is the first dance ever to be taught to every Balinese boy before reaching adulthood. Historical records show that Tari Baris was around in the middle of the 16th century, mentioned in the Kidung Sunda manuscript, estimated to date back to 1550 AD. It was explained that there were 7 types of Tari Baris performed in cremation ceremonies across East Java. The Baris dance was also a part of religious rituals at the time. Baris dance related to religious ritual was termed Tari Baris Upacara, or Tari Baris Gede. In this particular type of Tari Baris, a group of at least 8 (even up to 40) male dancers with accessories including traditional weaponry uniquely from its place of origin would perform. Around the 19th century a new version of Tari emerged and was termed Tari Baris Tunggal. This particular version was a non-sacred dance put on purely as entertainment. It is performed by one or two dancers donning colorful costumes and is characterized by distinctly energetic movements.

A different shot of Tari BarisTari Baris is visually distinguishable by its costumes. When dancers are male, they wear a triangle crown decorated with clamshell in a vertically placed row at the top. Dancers also wear colorful, loose costumes often draping to the floor with their arms serving as pedestals. This costume will expand when a dancer makes a spinning movement on one foot, enhancing the dramatic effect of the entire choreography. The movements in this specific dance also portray the toughness of Balinese warriors of the past. Dancers lift their arms almost to be almost level with their ears. Both arms are mostly in horizontal position, employing firm and rigid movements. Another unique feature is their suddenly shifting eye movements. It symbolizes alertness at any given situation.

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