Dancing Out of Bali and Dancers of Bali: Gamelan of Peliatan, 1952

CD Review: Dancing Out of Bali and Dancers of Bali: Gamelan of Peliatan, 1952

Dancing Out of Bali and Dancers of Bali: Gamelan of Peliatan, 1952

Ni Wayan Murni
Hello Bali, August 2006

Dancing Out of Bali and Dancers of Bali: Gamelan of Peliatan, 1952. Laura Rosenberg has done it again. First, the book, which we heartily applauded, and now, by way of an encore, the CD. Both are great. Most visitors see several Balinese dances during their stay in Bali and many of them see the Bumblebee Dance. The stars are two delightful bumblebees.

The lady bumblebee has long wings, which she stretches out in all directions. The dance was choreographed by Mario, the famous dancer from Tabanan, for John Coast’s tour of Europe and America in 1952.

The show caused a sensation and so did the dance. The lady bee flits and flirts from flower to flower. A young male bee appears and they dance around each other and finally lightly embrace.

It is very touching and was the first time that a woman had lifted her arms above her shoulders. It raised eyebrows. The dance is now firmly established in the repertoire and just called ‘Oleg’.

The show featured other dances and music too. The group, who had never been out of their remote village of Peliatan, near Ubud, left Indonesia on 21 August 1952 and flew the 8,000 miles from Jakarta to London in four days.

The next day they danced at The Winter Garden Theatre in London’s West End. It was a full house and there were rave reviews. Little 12-year old Raka, the lady bumblebee, was a star overnight.

In September, they flew on to New York. The Fulton Theatre, Broadway, was sold out for seven straight nights. Everyone courted them. Richard Rodgers, who put on South Pacific with its famous Bali Hai song, came to the show. Ed Sullivan televised parts of the Bumblebee Dance and the Monkey Dance to an audience of 30 million. The American comic actor Joe E. Lewis commented to Ed Sullivan, ‘I think they were on something’.

Then they were off to Boston, Philadelphia, Newark, Washington, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St Louis, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

After the tour John Coast wrote Dancing Out of Bali, which tells the story of how he brought the troupe of 44 dancers and musicians from Peliatan to London’s West End and New York’s Broadway.

I remember hearing about a white man in the Fifties, Tuan Coast, living in the area where I was going to school, near Denpasar. I used to see him driving about in his battered old jeep. I had no idea what he was doing, but I do now.

Every person I know likes the book. It is a great introduction to anyone visiting the island and describes many aspects of Bali’s culture and beautifully depicts Balinese ceremonies, dances and music.

Laura Rosenberg, John’s companion and my great friend, arranged for Dancing Out of Bali to be reprinted in 2004 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the English edition.

She has now persuaded World Arbiter to reissue the original Columbia Records LP Dancers and Musicians of Bali. You can read the book while listening to the music.

The performances are the first modern recordings made of a gamelan orchestra. It is lively, loud and frenetic; 66 minutes 16 seconds on a digitally restored CD, originally recorded in September 1952. The 6 minutes’ Kebyar composition, which accompanied the Kebyar Duduk dance, is very different from the version used today and therefore historically interesting.

The gamelan was under the direction of Anak Agung Gede Mandera. His family continue the tradition today in Peliatan.

There are 9 tracks:

Overture – Kapi Radja (melody from North Bali), Angklungan (an experimental piece), Oleg Tumulilingan (bumblebee dance), Baris (warrior dance), Gambangan (an ancient melody), Kebyar, Gender Wayang: Angkat-Ankatan (music for shadow play) and Legong (both versions – the New York studio recording and one (live) from Winter Garden Theatre, London).

There is a 24 page booklet of detailed notes, photographs and bibliography. Laura Rosenberg writes a note on John Coast and the John Coast Foundation (www.johncoast.org ), which was formed to further his dream of disseminating and preserving traditional Balinese culture.
I heartily recommend both the book and the CD.

The CD:

Dancers of Bali: Gamelan of Peliatan, 1952
Under the direction of Anak Agung Gede Mandera
Produced by John Coast
World Arbiter

The Book:

John Coast
Publisher: Periplus Editions
Date: 1954, reprinted 2004
ISBN: 0794602614
Pages: 256
Order Number: BOOK2

Dancing Out of Bali and Dancers of Bali: Gamelan of Peliatan, 1952