In the eleventh century, the center of Javanese kingdom moved from Prambanan (Central Java) to East Java, Jenggala or Kediri. During the reign of King Airlangga, art and culture flourished. The new creation of wayang kulit (leather puppet) started (wayang Purwa is the other name of wayang kulit) the puppet were improved, also the gamelan (music instruments).

The kingdom were divided to four, each ruled by his son, namely, the kingdom of :

  1. Jenggala, under king Lembu Amiluhur
  2. Kediri or Daha, under king Lembu Amerdadu
  3. Ngurawan, under king Lembu Mangarang
  4. Singasari, under king Amijaya.
The son of king Lembu Amiluhur, Raden Panji Asmarabangun was instructed to create Wayang Wong or Orang in Indonesian (wong = orang = man/woman), this is wayang with man or woman players. Panji Asmarabangun was a great artist himself, he was the one who had taught his brothers and relatives to be Dalang (puppeteer).

In that time the topics of the wayang wong was about the Jenggala Kingdom. It was the wish of king Airlangga, the history of his kingdom to be known by all court families and all his descendants. Latter on, until nowadays Jenggala wayang wong was named wayang Topeng (wearing a mask) or Wayang Gedog. In Majapahit kingdom, the Wayang Wwang/Wong also flourished. According to the book "NEGARA KERTAGAMA", even the famous King Hayam Wuruk was himself a dancer. What's explained here is the wayang wong with the stories from Ramayana and Mahabrata.

In the old days, wayang wong was only performed in the four palaces of Yogyakarta and Surakarta as clasical court dance. In the development, it spread beyond the palaces and become popular among the people. The wayang wong has certain patterns of dance movements and dresses.

For male figures, there are pattern of dance movements, a.o:

  1. Alus : very gentle movement, slow, elegant, such as the dance of Arjuna, Puntodewa and all ksatria with slightly build, which is divided into two movements (Lanyap and Luruh).
  2. Gagah :
    1. Kambeng : the dance is more sportif, such as Bima, Gatotkaca, etc.
    2. Bapang : gagah & kasar for the knights of Korawa
    3. Kalang Kinantang : In between alus and gagah, such as Kresna, Suteja for tall but slim figures.
  3. Kasar : rough, for giants.
  4. Gecul : Ponokawan & Cantrik
  5. a. Kambeng Dengklik : monkey warrior : Anoman
    b. Kalang Kinantang Dengklik : monkey warriors : Sugriwa & Subali

For female figures
The movement is called "Nggruda" or Ngenceng encot
In Javanese classical court dance, there are in fact 9 basic movements (Joged Pokok) and 12 additional movements (Joged Gubahan) and Joged Wirogo to beautify the movements for female dancers of Bedoyo and Srimpi.

Today, wayang wong with Gagrak (style) of Surakarta, a female dancer performs the ksatria with alus dance as Arjuna. A male dancer performs Gagrak (style) Yogyakarta, Arjuna with the same alus movements. The dresses and accessories are different between kings, gods, ksatrias, begawans, princesses and commanders. There are more than 45 items (it should be described in separated article).

The lakon (play) of wayang wong is the same as wayang kulit but usually the performance is shorter. The dalang of wayang wong has a much lighter job compared with the one of wayang kulit. The figure in wayang wong they make the conversation themselves. The dalang is doing 'Suluk' a prelude of opening explanations with a special standard voice and some narration.
Wayang wong dancers before going to the stage need a long and various training. Some of them can dance elegantly and become the favorite of the audience, and have a famous name in the society. Usually every club of wayang orang has its own stars - male and female.

Wayang Orang Sriwedari
In the city of Solo with its regular evening show is the famous group in the country. Some years ago in Semarang - wayang orang Ngesti Pandawa was also popular and wayang orang Wiromo Budoyo in Yogyakarta (evening show in Purawisata open theater).

In 1960's, almost every town in Central and East Java plus Jakarta has its own group of wayang orang. The 'show business' of wayang orang was slowing down nowadays due to many reasons.

In Jakarta the capital of Indonesia, there is wayang orang Bharata with regular evening performances. There are also some groups performs from time to time, travelling from one town to another.

The Classical Court Dance
This kind of dance originated from the Karaton can be enjoyed in Yogyakarta and Solo. Some are performed regularly and some are performed on special occasions. A dance training session in Karaton is also worth to be seen, one could feel the atmosphere of the Karaton, somewhat magical, and the dance trainers, they are the first class experts. Classical dance is also taught outside Karaton such Krido Bekso Wiromo, Siswo Among Bekso, and Pamulangan Beksa Sasminta Mardawa.

At dalem Pujokusuman, one of the best show staged thrice a week. The ISI (Institute of Arts, Indonesia) Padepokan Bagong Kusudiarjo & DR. Wisnoe Wardhana's Art and Cultural Foundation are also good education and performance places of dance.

In Solo, dance rehearsal and occasional performance can be seen in STSI (Academy of Art and Music), Central Java Cultural Center and in Karaton Kasunanan and Mangkunagaran. Serimpi and Bedoyo dances of Karaton are worth also to be seen.

Prambanan Ramayana Ballet
This is a precious introduction to classical dance, an evening out door performance under a full moon (at dry season from May to October) with the magnificent 8th century Prambanan temple as a backdrop. Performed by more than 200 dancers with live gamelan music, it's really a spectacular theater.

For 2 hours, one should be enthrilled by a succession of visual and aural delights. The dancers, the musicians, the performance, the magical ancient surrounding, all are perfect. No visitor should miss this performance. There is also in door daytime performance, but probably fewer spectacular.

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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