This young girl is part of a Balinese Legong dance performance. She is captured here in a brief moment of regal serenity. Balinese dancing, and Legong dance in particular, is epitomised by highly exaggerated facial expressions, and intricately sinuous hand movements and footwork. Even without the ornate costumes and theatrical hair and make-up I imagine that the stars of the show would still shine; my take on Ailsa’s ‘shine’ travel theme.
It is fascinating to watch these beautiful dancers move. They do not speak, so everything is conveyed through movement and expression, and the accompanying music. The girls performing are usually not old – often only young teenagers. But dance, music and the arts are integral to Balinese culture, and deeply revered. Legong dancers are well-respected, with many of them commencing intensive training for this very prestigious role in early childhood.
There are two different possible translations for the meaning of ‘legong’. One is ‘something that makes people happy’. The other is a combined derivation of the Indonesian words for ‘dance’ and ‘gamelan music’, the very distinctive percussive music of Bali and Java which accompanies the dance. Although the second option is more explanatory, I think I prefer the more whimsical nature of the first one. I certainly felt happy, sat in an open air courtyard in Ubud on a balmy Balinese night, watching the pageant unfold as the stars of the show shone.