Classical Court Dance

Karaton of Yogyakarta

The development of court art and culture in the society is hailed positively by Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, he always says, the art and culture which still exist in Karaton, must be maintained and preserved like the original form. It can be used as original source and in depth study for those who need.

The principles of Joged Mataram (Mataram Dance)

According to the late Prince Suryo Brongto, a Karaton dance expert, the principles of Joged Mataram are:

  1. Sawiji ( Concentration of mind)

  2. Greget (Enthusiasm, Consciousness)

  3. Sengguh (Self-confidence)

  4. Ora Mingkuh (No surrender)

Beksan LawungAfter the division of Mataram Kingdom, where new style of dance movement emerged, the principles of Joged Mataram prevail. The Karaton of Yogyakarta since under the rule of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono I, preserved and developed Javanese court dance with enthusiasm and determination. He created most of Yogyakarta dance genres as Beksan Lawung, wayang wong etc.

To strengthen his legitimation as a true ruler of Mataram (as true descendant of Majapahit), wayang wong was also considered as one the Kingís Pusaka/Heirloom. The wayang wong ritual performed in the Karaton compound from 6.00 am to 6 pm, was a manifestation of state ritual strengthening Sultanís legitimation as the rightful heir of God Wisnu, the first legendary king of Java. During the performance he always faced the East and seated under the Uleng (under the Center of roof) in Bangsal Kencono (golden hall), one of the most sacred places in Karaton.

The Karaton of Yogyakarta keeps the sacred link with Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, the goddess of the South Sea by Labuhan (offering ceremony).

During the reign of Sultan Hamengkubuwono II, III, IV, the situation was difficult also for wayang wong. Sultan Hamengkubuwono II only enacted one full-scale wayang wong.

During the reign of Sultan Hamengkubuwono V (1823 Ė 55)

Five wayang wong performance were produced. The 18th and 19th centuries were the renaissance of Javanese literature, as a consequence there of, the language used in wayang wong by the narrators and the dancers was improved. The texts of Serat Kanda (The Narration Book) and Serat Pocapan (The Dialogue Book) were refined.

Sultan Hamengkubuwono VI (1855-77) produced two full-scale wayang wong. Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII (1877-1921), had performed wayang wong actively, and once in 1899, a performance of four-day was conducted.

In 1918, a private court dance and gamelan association by the name of Krida Beksa Wirama was established by Prince Suryadiningrat and Prince Tejakusuma, and other princes and supported actively by their father, Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII.

During the reign of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono VIII (1921-1939), eleven full scale wayang wong have been produced, some were four day performance. Some innovation have been made, such as costumes designs and dance movements. Almost all of his sons were dancers of wayang wong, including the Crown Ė Prince, Darajatun who later became Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX (a freedom fighter of the country)

During Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, only a short wayang was produced from 09.00 am to 4.00 pm. But private dance associations were performing outside Karaton walls, and female dancers also introduced. (Since Sultan Hamengkubuwono V, the Karaton wayang wong dancers were only male, even for the female role). The government established public dance schools, KONRI/SMKI, the School of Performing Arts (at high school level) and ASTI/ISI, the Institute of Arts, of Indonesia).

Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX created also some dances, such as:

Bedaya Damarwulan, Bedaya Arya Penangsang, Bedaya Manten, Bedaya Sapta etc. During the Dutch colonial period, Karaton of Yogyakarta firmly hold its principle, that art and culture is one of the effective means for the countryís independent struggle.

Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, fully committed to the art and cultural preservation and development, has created Bedaya Amurwabumi and Bedaya Jumunengan Dasarengga.

The bedaya dance is sacred. Itís considered as pusaka/heirloom in the four Royal Palaces of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. The Bedaya Ketawang was created by Panembahan Senopati and Bedaya Semang by Sultan Agung.

Even the gamelan music accompaniment are also considered as sacred. Offering must be given to Kanjeng Ratu Kidul before the gamelan is being played, the gending/gamelan music Ketawang was composed by Panembahan Senopati to accompany Budaya Ketawang, and gending Anduk was composed by Sultan Agung to accompany Bedaya Semang.

The word "Anduk" means "as soon as possible". After the meeting between Sultan Agung and Kanjeng Ratu Kidul, the gamelan expert Kyai Panjang Mas was instructed to compose a poem of a song composition to accompany a new Bedaya dance "Semang". The composition must be completed asap i.e. anduk. The words in anduk song are very amorous.

The Karaton of Mataram decided that the dance Bedaya Semang should be performed only to commemorate Sultan Agungís coronation once a year. According to "Serat Wedha Pradangga" (Serat=book), the dance Bedaya Ketawang was only performed for ritual coronation of Sri Sunan (King) Pakubuwono of Surakarta.

This dance was created by Kanjeng Ratu Kidul herself and the music arrangement by Sultan Agung, which later on, perfected by Sunan Kalijaga. "Serat Babad Nitik" from Karaton Yogyakarta. Revealed the name of Bedaya Semang was given by Sultan Agung. Semang means "mother" of all other bedaya dances.

A Karaton dance expert says that vertically Bedaya dance is sacred, horizontally it has a socio-educative mission, where every individual could have an internal spiritual conflict or problem. The mastering of Cipto-Rasa-Karsa = creation-feeling/emotion-wish, in the right manner, thru proper exercises are important and must be carried out regularly and patiently.

The Bedaya dance is also depicting the conflict between "emotion/feeling" and "Ratio". If "emotion/feeling" wins, it should give happiness, satisfaction and freedom, but if uncontrollable should lead to destruction. If "Ratio" prevails, it should lead to awkwardness of life, disharmony.

The beginning of life is always in order, in Bedaya, the dancers remain and walk in their row, then a conflict or a fight occurred, it could be arranged again and back to normal. Sultan Hamengkubuwono V had introduced male Bedaya dancers. He replaced the female dancers in Karaton because they could have monthly period during performance and Bedaya needed ritually pure dancers.

As in the real life, Bedaya says, in this world there are two opposite characters i.e. good and bad, the ideal goal of man is to conquer the bad character.


It is depicting a fight between two heroines, the right and the wrong, the clear mind and the improper desires.

SrimpiEvaluating the creations of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, it seems that the present Sultan is following the Javanese "cycle of life" philosophy. Where did it come from, it stays (in this world), where it shall go. Sangkan paraning dumadi.

In "Serat Pararaton" (Serat=Book), from the marriage of queen-Ken Dedes with Ken Arok, The King-Sri Rajasa Sang Amurwabumi, a lesson can be drawn: that a manís prestige and achievement, shall be evaluated from his positive prestige and work and not mainly from his biological parents or ancestorís heritage.

Based upon interview with:

  1. R.M. Dinusatomo from Siswa Among Beksa.
  2. Mr. Moeljono from Pamulangan Beksa Sasminta Mardawa.

For which Joglosemar Online is grateful.

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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