Reog

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Reog is a traditional Indonesian dance form. There are many types of Reogs in Indonesia, but the most notable ones are Reog Ponorogo (East Java) and Reog Sunda (West Java). Although both share a similar name, there is no connection nor similar theme among these traditions. Reog Ponorogo seems to be the kind of dance drama that demonstrate physical strength and extravagant lion-peafowl mask and costumes, while Reog Sunda is a lot more like a traditional musical dance drama and comedy.

Reog Ponorogo[edit]

Reog is a traditional dance that become the main identity for Ponorogo Regency. Reog National Festival is held every years along the anniversary of Ponorogo regency and Grebeg Suro celebration. Reog dance is also staged full moon nightly in paseban, Ponorogo town square. Reog told about the struggle for a prince who will propose to a beautiful princess.[1] Reog Ponorogo tells the story of a mythical battle between the King of Ponorogo and the magical lion-like creature called Singa Barong. Singa Barong is a large mask usually made of tiger's or leopard's head skin, upon the mask attached a large fan adorned with peafowl feathers. The Singa Barong mask was notoriously heavy, the dancer of Singo Barong bear the mask about 30 – 40 kg weight and supported by the strength of their teeth.

Dance performance[edit]

The leading figures in Reog Ponorogo performance includes:

  1. Klono Sewandono, A men in regal attire wearing mask in proud and pompous dance, play the role as the King of Ponorogo
  2. Bujang Anom, rough youthful men wearing red mask, they performed acrobatic dances and sometimes also involved trance.
  3. Jathil, the youthful handsome horsemen riding horses made of weaved bamboo, similar to Kuda Lumping dance. Today Jathil usually performed by female dancers.
  4. Warok, played as Singa Barong, the mythical creature. The one that allowed to performed this mask dance is called warok. A warok is the hororary title of local hero or strongman of the village that possessed both exceptional spiritual and phyisical strength. The dance itself is demonstration of phyisical strength of the dancers.

Reog Ponorogo usually consists of three sets of dances; each dance is performed by several dancers:

  1. The first dance is the opening dance, performed by Bujang Anom, male dancers wearing black costumes. The costume describe rough men with intimidating moustache and other masculinity symbols.
  2. The second dance is the Jaran Kepang dance performed by Jatil; it is originally performed by a gemblak, a handsome and youthful teenage boy wearing colourful costumes. Today the female dancers were usually played this role.
  3. The third dance is the main attraction of the show; it is performed by all the Reog dancers. The warok as the main male dancer, wearing a large and heavy lion mask, dances in the centre of the stage while the other dancers dance around him. To demonstrate the warok's extraordinary strength Jatil or female dancers riding on top of lion mask and being carried around.

Culture and traditions of Reog Ponorogo[edit]

Reog dancers in Ponorogo, ca. 1920.

The dance describe Klono Sewandono the king of Ponorogo on his journey to Kediri to seek the hands of Princess Songgo Langit. On his journey he was attacked by a vicious monster called Singa Barong, a mythical lion with peacock on its head. Historians trace the origin of Reog Ponorogo as the satire on the incompetence of Majapahit rulers during the end of the empire. It describe the innate Ponorogo liberty and its opposition on centralist Majapahit rule. The lion represent the king of Majapahit while the peafowl represent the queen, it was suggested that the king was incompetent and always being controlled by his queen. The beautiful, youthful and almost effeminate horsemen describe the Majapahit cavalry that have lost their manliness.[2]

In society, there is another version about the origin of the reog. History of Reog Arts began the revolt of Ki Ageng ticks, a man of Majapahit Kingdom in the 15th century, where at that time the Majapahit Kingdom under the rule of the King of Kertabhumi Bhre last Majapahit Kingdom. Ki Ageng Kutu wrath against the corrupt behavior of his King, he saw that the powers of the Majapahit Kingdom soon will end. He left the Kingdom and founded a College of martial arts in hopes of raising seeds which can be held as under. Aware that the army was not able to compete with the Majapahit army Political messages of Ki Ageng Kutu were submitted through the performances of Reog. Performance of Reog utilized Ki Ageng Kutu to build resistance to the Royal Society. In art performances Reog was shown the head of a lion-shaped mask called "Singo Barong", Kings of the forest that became a symbol of Kertabumi, and it plugged up to peacock feathers to resemble a giant fan that symbolises the strong influence of the governing Chinese pronunciation of peers over all. Jatilan, played by a group of dancers a gemblak horses-shaped became a symbol of the power of the Kingdom of Majapahit into comparison contrast with the power of warok. Red clown mask that became the symbol for Ki Ageng Kutu, alone and support the weight of the mask singo barong that reaches over 50kg using only his teeth. And finally reog Ki Ageng Kutu attacking the college, causing kertabumi an uprising by warok quickly resolve, and forbidden to continue teaching will warok. But the disciples Ki Ageng Kutu remain continue secretly. However, artistry reog itself is allowed to staged performances because has become popular among the people but the storyline having a groove in which the characters of new added folktale ponorogo kelono sewondono, namely dewi songgolangit, and sri genthayu.[3]

Reog Ponorogo dancers traditionally performed in a trance state. Reog Ponorogo displays the traditional Kejawen Javanese spiritual teaching. Next to physical requirement, the dancers—especially the Warok—required to follow strict rules, rituals and exercises, both physical and spiritual. One of the requirement is abstinence, warok is prohibited to indulged and involved in sexual relationship with women, yet having sex with boy age eight to fifteen is allowed. The boy lover is called Gemblak and usually kept by Warok in their household under the agreement and compensation to the boy's family. Warok can be married with a woman as their wive, but they may kept a gemblak too. This led to Warok-Gemblakan relationship that similar to pederastic tradition of ancient Greece. Anybody who is in touch with the traditional way of life in Ponorogo, knows that there are these older men called warok who, instead of having sex with their wives, have sex with younger boys.[4] What Warok and Gemblak did is homosexual act, yet they never identify themself as homosexuals.

Many Gemblak were massacred by Islamic groups during the anti-communist Indonesian killings of 1965-1966, their heads placed on pikes for public display. Today the Warok-Gemblakan practice is discouraged by local religious authorities and being shunned through public moral opposition. As the result today Reog Ponorogo performance rarely features Gemblak boys to performed as Jatil horsemen, their position were replaced by girls. Although today this practice might probably still survived and done in discreet manner.

Reog Sunda[edit]

Reog Sunda is very different from the Ponorogo one, since Reog Sunda did not incorporate a large lion mask adorned with peafowl feathers like Reog Ponorogo, and did not incorporate a trance state. The Reog Sunda performance combines comedy, joke, music, and funny comical movements and dances of the performers.[5] The performers usually consist of four personnel, one called dalang directing the shows, similar to dalang in wayang performance, one called wakil or vice-dalang, the other two were the performers that interact and do the order of the dalang. Each performers carrying and using musical instruments such as dogdog, beungbreung, gudubrag (types of traditional drums), and kecrek (similar to maraca) or tambourine, other instruments such as kendang, gong, kacapi might also used. The performance usually took one hour to one and half hour of music, dance and jokes, filled with social messages or religious wisdom.

Controversy[edit]

The origins and cultural ownership of the Reog Ponorogo dance have been the subject of a dispute between the neighboring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia, whose ethnic, cultural and religious histories overlap and share many similarities. Mostly because there is numerous descendants of Muslim Javanese immigrants in Malaysia, some who have been serving with Sultan of Malacca,[6] before moving together with the Sultan, especially in Johor state to form Johor Riau Kingdom. And some of the immigrants brought many Javanese-origin artforms such as Wayang Kulit Jawa,[7] Barongan (Similar to Reog but with Islamic element injected into it) and Kuda Lumping. To avoid further controversy with Indonesia, all promotional revival on Barongan have been discontinued by the government of Malaysia, which contributing to further decline of Barongan in Malaysia.[8] However, Malaysian government continue to promote other ethnic culture like Portugis descendant, San Pedro Day.[9]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]