About the writer
Glossary of terms

The Story
Finding Cultural Identity
in Gamelan

The Video
Barong Dragon Dance

The Sounds
Audio Organology

The Photos
Golden Beats:
Burat Wangi Rehearsal

Presented by Elisa Hough
Specialized Journalism (the Arts)
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
© 2012

Barong Dragon Dance

When there’s a shaggy dragon spirit dancing on stage, reflecting like a disco ball across the theater, it doesn’t matter if you’re Indonesian or American, Hindu or Jewish — you’re going to be entranced.

Such was the audience at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex for the mebarung “battle” between two California-based gamelans, ensembles playing the traditional folk music of Indonesia, as part of the World Festival of Sacred Music on Oct. 8. In this corner was Burat Wangi from CalArts.

The audience was so intently focused on the two dancers within the dragon costume that when they took a sudden threatening step forward, the first few rows jolted back in their seats and the whole hall gasped.

When the dragon appeared to scratch its own butt, one had to wonder, how traditional is this dance move? Is this still sacred? But if this silliness engages a whole theaterful of people in collective laughter, echoing the centuries-old communal nature of gamelan groups and music, then it really doesn’t matter. This is sacred in its own way.