A Look into Balinese Culture

The evil witch Rangda stands over defeated trance dancers. (Willem Ytsma/The Lafayette)[quote]By Nicole Maguire[/quote]

Bali, Indonesia, is not just known for its beautiful beaches, ancient temples and balmy temperatures—it is also known for its remarkable theatrical performances, dances and music — all part of Balinese culture that Lafayette students witnessed firsthand on the three-week interim trip to Bali.

This trip to Bali provided students an opportunity to learn about religion on top of the performing arts, and how the two coincide within the culture. “My favorite part of the culture was how intertwined their Hindu religion is to their performing arts. Religion and the arts go hand in hand in Bali,” said Kidane Kinney ‘15.

“We got to experience a wide range of the arts during our three weeks, ranging from traditional Balinese dances, to gamelan music, to mask making and shadow puppetry,” said Associate Professor of English Mary Jo Lodge, who along with Assistant Professor of Music Jennifer Kelly, accompanied the students on the trip.

Students took part in a performance during their gamelan orchestra class, a music ensemble that includes instruments such as bamboo flutes, gongs and xylophones. “The group did so well and in just a short two hours, we were able to play together as a group and it sounded surprisingly good,” said Lodge, although many students did not have formal music training.

Students were also able to visit with a Balinese family and participate in a temple ceremony. “There are certain performances and ceremonies that are not allowed to be seen by tourists, as they are sacred,” said Ana Drehwing ‘13. “We were fortunate enough to attend one of these ceremonies, and it was very special.”

Drehwing noted that these experiences were not open to every visitor to Bali. “We got to talk one-on-one with Balinese men, women and children. This was an unbelievable experience in itself.”

Students were exposed to parts of the culture in Bali that may be unfamiliar to new visitors, including the interaction between religion and culture, since the Balinese do not separate religion from daily life. “Instead, every step they take and every conversation they have is tied to their religion,” Drehwing said. “They have a very interesting concept of time, and of good versus evil.”

The trip was not all travel and culture—there was also an academic component. Students were expected to write in a journal where they recorded thoughts and reactions to readings, viewings and special guests, as well as assigned papers and presentations.

“I have traveled to almost every continent—about 20 countries—places including Spain, Greece, Morocco, Egypt, Australia, and many other countries, and there is no place that comes close to Bali and the experience I had there,” Drehwing said.[]

 The Lafayette

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