One of the most important of ritual dance in Bali, is the Baris. Baris derives its name from the word bebarisan, which literally means a line of file of formation. It refers to the ancient Balinese soldiers who were used by raja-raja , (the Balinese King ) to protect their kingdom in times of disturbance. Aside from its ritual function, the baris is also known as a patriotic or warrior drill dance. As a rule the dance is performed by men, usually in a group numbering from four to sixty dancers.
The ritualistic nature of the baris dance is to show one’s physical maturity. The maturity is proven by demonstrating skills military particularly the use of weapon, therefore the baris is also a patriotic dance. The Baris dances are performed for the temple feasts such as Galungan and Kuningan day. The biggest event of ritual baris is usually held in Pura Besakih (Karangasem) and Pura Batur (Kintamani), the two largest temples located in northeast Bali, where the temple belong to the eight raja-raja (the Balinese Kings).
The baris performance takes place every year of the fixed time of the full moon. The baris dance is unique in each characterization, it emphasizes the firmness and steadiness of foot step and skill in handing of military weapons. Its costumes are also unique. The dancer wears gelungan, ahead dress shaped like a cone but full of adornments , a bunch of golden decorated scarves called awiran or lelamakan, hanging around his body to coverhis underclothes. His shirt varies in color.
Black , red, white are proffered. The shoulder is covered by bapang, an elaborate neck band full of coloured stones. A stagen or long tie is wrapped around his chest hold the keris or the dagger on his back. This keris becomes his weapon , especially in the baris melampahan or dramatic baris that will be described later.
The baris dance is usually accompanied by the traditional Balinese musical orchestra, know as Gambelan Gong, which consists of about thirty to fifty musicians and is maintained primarily for temple festivals and accompanies the baris and other ceremonial dances. Instruments commonly used include metallophones, gongs, flute , rebab and drum all essential of a percussion orchestra. There are kinds of baris dances in Bali which are usually named according to the weapon used in the dance :
Baris Tumbak uses a wepon called tumbak (long spear tipped with a peacock feather). The dance is performed in double lines of twelve to twenty dancers, grimacing and striking heroic poses. When the music becomes violent the dancers enact a sham battle with their tumbak . This baris is accompanied by Gambelan Gong.
The dancer of Baris Presi or knobbed shield of painted and gilled leather with a wavy edge, held at back by wooden handle. The baris presi is performed by eight men in close file with small circles and accompanied by the Gambelan Gong .This baris is characteristical from southern Bali with its swift turns, long stances on one leg, dips, long pauses, swift eye movements, the seledet and familiar baris cry.
Baris Jojor is equipped by a jojor (a type of lance) . It is usually performed by eight dancer and has more dance movent than the baris tumbak. The accompaniment of this baris is the Gambelan Tembang Kirang, four slendro tones of Balinese orchestra.
The weapon of Baris Dadap is called dadap, a curious wedge shaped pointed shield, curled over , just like a sleigh and formed in pairs, starting with four to sixteen dancers. The accompaniment of this baris is also gambelan Tembang Kirang, the four tones of Balinese Orchestra.
Panah is the Balinese word for bow and arrow. This military weapon is used by Baris Panah and the dance is performed by some tarunas (young men) found in north Bali. Its costumes are simpler than other baris. Its accompaniment is the Gambelan Tembang Kirang.
The dancers of Baris Omang bring with them a weapon called omang, a type of shield. It is performed by eight dancers. They form two rows, first kneel, then rise and stand facing inward each other. They slowly shift their shield and prepare for the fight.
In the Baris Pendet, the accent is on the offering, however there is always an element of battle. There are many varieties of this dance. In performancing yhis dance, the dancers are in fact praying to God. This dance is generally performed by several boys. In their hand they carry offering of flowers on silver bowls. This dance is more elaborately danced than other ceremonial baris.
Baris Tamiang is another version of the baris presi, where the dancers carry with them a weapon called tamiang (shiekd) This dance is also performed in pairs and the accompaniment is the Gambelan Gong.
Baris Melambahan is most the impressive and brilliant one. This is indeed a form of Balinese dance drama which is representative of the baris dance. This drama, the story of which comes from Ramayana and Mahabrata, the two story great Indian epies, contains dialogue. When this baris is performed by a single dancer, he represents one of the heroes in Ramayana, Mahabrata or any other stories. This baris melambahan itself as a whole is considered typical of a strong male character.