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What Is a Gandrung?

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  • Written By: Lakshmi Sandhana
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2014
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The Gandrung is a ritual dance that initially came into being to express devotion to the goddess of fertility and rice, Dewi Sri, in Indonesia. A beautiful, classical dance, it has evolved over time to become a sort of courtship dance that portrays a girl looking for a man. In Javanese, the word Gandrung stands for desperately in love or being infatuated. Thought to have originated in Banyuwangi in East Java, the dance is also popular in Lombok and Bali, where it is performed at social events, weddings, or to engage tourists.

While there are a number of dancers on the stage, the focus of attention is on a single dancer who is either an unmarried girl or a boy dressed up as one. Sometimes, transvestites also star as the main dancer, and there could also be more than one main dancer on the stage. Typically, the Gandrung starts are around 9:00 p.m. with dancers performing all night. Ending before dawn, the dance is on par with other dances like the tayub, ketuk tilu, and the lengger, which come from different parts of Java.

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The main dancer is exotically dressed in a traditional costume, ornamental headgear, shawl, and a beautiful fan. The dancer uses this fan or the shawl enticingly during the dance to indicate interest in a member of the audience. He or she may either tap the person with the point of the fan if close by or throw the shawl to the person. The invited person usually dances together with the dancer.

The invited audience member may gift the dancer a little money to show appreciation. Considered the welcome dance of Banyuwangi, the city itself acquired the term the City of Gandrung. Its native people are the Osing, and the dance is thought to express their personality. The dance form portrays influences from Madura, Java, and Bali. The music has a Balinese flavor, while the dance moves can seem Javanese or Madurese from time to time.

Over the years, the Gandrung lost its ritual connection with the goddess Dewi Sri and is now sometimes performed as a courtship dance outdoors in certain parts of Lombok. Originally, the instruments musicians used were violins, gongs, drums, and kenong. Over time, they added others such as bonang, gamelan, xylophones, and terbang.

Musicians may also use other instruments, like angklung, saron, and gendangs. At times, a singer may also lend his or her voice to a Gandrung dance. The exotic music is quite vibrant and varies depending on the area where the dance is performed.

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