Arja Dance | Panji Story Drama

Among the many form of Balinese dance drama, Arja corresponds most nearly to the idea of opera in the western theatre or rather musical comedy. It is one of the most popular theaters in Bali, derived form Gambuh in style but with a more sentimental repertory of plays, in which singing and spoken lines, stylized dance scenes and amusing buffoonery are combined. Here is the place where the greater part of the casting is played by women primarily young girls. In many villages the local Arja is primarily a recreational club for teenagers of both sexes.

The accent in Arja is on the intrigue in the story, on the singing and last but not least on the comedy. The gambelan consisting of percussion (bamboo zither) and flute plays the part of an accompaniment, not so dominating as in the Topeng, sometimes for long periods falling out together in order that the comic dialogue may be audible. Like the Topeng, if the comedians are skilled many of the lines and jokes are topical and improvised on the spur of the moment.

It is rather difficult for foreigners to watch this performance since the time schedule is from late at night to the dawn. But for the populace it does not make any difference. The themes of the story are also based on romantic or mythical versions of Javanese history known as the Panji story. This dance is so beloved by the Balinese populace, for in it they are treated to varied emotional stimulants and impressions such as excitement, melancholy and farce.

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