Baris Gede for UNESCO Heritage Listing


The traditional Balinese warrior dance, the baris gede (literally: great line) is to be given protection under UNESCO’s heritage register.  The dance has its origins in ritual preparations for battle and is traditionally performed en masse.  Performing the dance often results in the dancers achieving a trance.

Balinese warriors had a fearsome reputation and were often used as mercenaries by the Javanese sultans.  The island, which is a tourist paradise today, was a horror posting for Dutch soldiers during the colonial period as their losses during the guerrilla war following its conquest were horrific.  This clip from 1932 will give you an idea of how it might have been, but by that date the fight had been taken out of the Balinese:

Today, other than important temple occasions, there’s a very good chance you can catch a performance of this dance at a tourist venue.  The quality might not be up to what you’ve just seen, though.  I’m not exactly sure how UNESCO is going to save this dance.  I’ve always thought that if the people don’t care to perform it, it loses its cultural significance and becomes a museum piece (or an amusement for tourists).  So it’s up to the people, not some foreign agency.

Also to be protected is Aceh’s Saman dance.  Traditionally performed on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday.  It’s quite energetic and therefore usually performed by men.  But in this excellent performance, it’s an all girl show:

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