Topeng Dance

Topeng (mask) Dance is a dance-drama where all of the dancers wear a topeng (a type of mask made from wood or paper). Topeng means an object that covers the face. There are 2 types of topeng used in dance performances, one is called topeng bungkulan and the other is called topeng sibakan. Topeng bungkulan covers the whole face of the dancer while topeng sibakan only covers the brow and the nose part so the dancers can speak freely. Topeng sibakan is worn by comical figures; speaking funny things in Kawi or Balinese language. According to the ancient inscriptions, a performance which uses the mask to cover the face has existed since 10th century, when the King Jaya Pangus governed Bali.

Most narrative in drama tari topeng, is about heroic stories or kingdoms’ tales based on babad (historic tales). Classical dance called Gambuh has profound impact on mask dance performance. The stories which are reenacted in topeng performances are mostly about a royal family where the village, kingdom and temples are set as the background.

The kinds of dance-drama topeng in Bali are: Topeng Pajegan, (played by one actor who represents several characters), Topeng Panca (which is played by four or five dancers, each dancer portrays one character based on the story play), Topeng Prembon (mixed characters which are taken from Topeng Panca and dance-drama Arja) and Topeng Bondres, (a kind of mask performance in which funny characters are dominant in the show). The well known solo topeng dance is Topeng Tua, in which the actor behind the mask expresses dance movements as an old man.

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