<<<December 2021>>>

Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble




The Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble was created in 1993 in the village of Batuan as a project by the Italian dancer Cristina Wistari Formaggia. Initially supported by the Ford Foundation, its aim was to preserve and transmit the practice of this dance drama among the younger generation. Today, in addition to teaching boys and girls, the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble performs regularly in its village, in the temples of Bali and abroad. In 2001 the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble has been awarded of Wijakosuma prize by the Indonesian government. It is a permanent part of Theatrum Mundi, the intercultural ensemble of ISTA, International School of Theatre Anthropology, which is directed by Eugenio Barba and based in Denmark ( -


When in Bali, the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble presents a Gambuh performance at the Batuan Temple every 1st and 15th of the month.


For information: I Wayan Bawa (,

Skype ; BawaBali ; Mobile ; 081 936 233 066 ; 081 237 485 779

Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble Director: I Made Suamba

Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble Artistic Director: I Wayan Bawa

Supported through the Gambuh Fund (for information see Gambuh Fund) by Odin Teatret and IKC (Interkulturelt Center)




About Gambuh

Gambuh is Bali's oldest surviving performance genre, comparable to Noh theatre in Japan and Kathakali in India. Its music, literature, acting and dance originated in Java during the Majapahit era (1292-1527), at the height of the classical Hindu-Javanese court culture. When the Muslims came to power, the Hindu-Javanese aristocracy migrated to Bali, which remains the only Hindu island in the Muslim Indonesian archipelago.

Gambuh has not changed in essence during the 500 years of its recorded history and still mirrors the compelling atmosphere and figures of the ancient Javanese royal courts. Its characteristic epic form using acting, dance, dialogue, singing and music became the source of a multitude of dance and performance genres, that have made Bali such a strong inspiration for today's theatre in the East as well as in the West. Just one example of this is Antonin Artaud. When Bali became a Dutch colony in 1908, the glamour of the royal courts disappeared and Gambuh faded in popularity. Today Gambuh survives in only a few villages and is in danger of becoming extinct.

In Gambuh the main characters speak and sing in Kawi (an ancient literary language) accompanied by attendants who translate their dialogues into present-day Balinese. The Gambuh dancers sing the text, often without fully understanding it, having learnt it through an oral tradition handed down through generations. The plays are taken from the Malat cycle of tales which revolves around the heroic mythical Prince Panji's quest for his beloved Rangke-Sekar.

The Gambuh orchestra of drums, gongs, bells and flutes was already established long before bronze metallophones, characteristic of the gamelan orchestra in Bali, made an appearance. Thus the Gambuh drumming patterns, tunes and musical structure form the basis of nearly all Balinese music.



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Repertory abroad



Presents the following performances abroad



(The Stabbing of the Horse)

A Gambuh Performance

Gambuh is Bali's oldest surviving performance genre, comparable to Noh theatre in Japan and Kathakali in India. In Gambuh the main characters speak and sing in Kawi (an ancient literary language) accompanied by attendants who translate their dialogues into present-day Balinese. The Gambuh dancers sing the text. The Gambuh orchestra of drums, gongs, bells and flutes was already established before bronze metallophones, characteristic of the gamelan orchestra in Bali, made an appearance. Thus the drumming patterns, tunes and musical structure of Gambuh form the basis of nearly all Balinese music.

This Gambuh performance recounts one of the stories from the Malat, a cycle of the adventures of Prince Panji. In this episode, Panji, who is on his search for his beloved Rangke-Sekar, enters riding his horse and followed by his attendant. Prabangsa, Panji's crazy half brother, sees the horse tied beneath a tree and draws his kriss (dagger) and stabs it along with Panji's groom. But the horse is not really dead and Panji heals it to the joy of everybody.

More information >>>



A Topeng (Mask Dance) Performance

Topeng, in Balinese, means mask. It is also the name for any performance with masked characters. Topeng takes its narratives from the Babad or Chronicles of the Balinese Kings, reflecting the complex hierarchy of Balinese society in its social, religious and political structure. The drama usually begins with characters with full wooden masks which are archetypes of prime ministers. These characters perform pure dance to show their skill as dancers. The actual story itself then begins with the entrance of half mask characters who serve as storytellers.

In this episode the King of Bali, decides to attack the powerful and unjust king of the island of Nusa Penida, and sends his Prime Minister to fight him. The epidode includes a series of grotesque scenes and ends with the defeat of the evil king thanks to a magic dagger given to the prime minister by his wife.



A composite performance with classical dances and clowns

The performance presents an opening ceremonial female dance, a baris warrior dance, and legong kraton in which three dancers move from one character to another, changing roles, becoming the synchronised double-image of the same person. Then Ni Nyoman Yjandri presents a scene from Wayang Kulit, the shadow puppet performance, in a version done without the screen and fire (Wayang Lemah), enabling the spectators to watch the skill of the puppeteer and her assistant.

The performance ends with a clown version of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The masked dance-drama of Bali which is called Topeng (mask) dates back at least five hundred years. Its clowns (bondres) are among the most loved characters by the spectators for their humour and imagination. They perform Hamlet's story giving ample space to improvisation and interaction with the audience.



Music, songs and dances from Bali


In Bali there are no clear boundaries between dance, drama and certain forms of music. MANIK SUARA is both a concert and a performance giving the opportunity to appreciate the rich gamut of vocal and melodic expressions of Bali's culture, as well as some of the dances and dialogues which are an integral part of it. In this performance, the traditional Gambuh orchestra (one of the oldest surviving dance-dramas from the 15th century) also includes a gangsa (metallophone) from a gamelan, a more modern type of orchestra.



A newly composed piece in memory of Cristina Wistari Formaggia, the Italian dancer who, in 1993, created the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble and its school. It makes use both of the traditional Gambuh instruments as well as a gangsa.


A song often sung by parents and grand-parents to their children describing the merits and manifestations of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the three mighty gods of Bali's Hindu religion.


A traditional Gambuh melody, welcoming the spectators as well as enabling the musicians to "warm up" for the performance.


A love dialogue between Prince Mantri Manis and his beloved Galuh. It comes from Ardja, a performance genre often compared to western opera.


This vibrating outburst of vocal reactions renders the atmosphere of a cockfight (tajen), with its preliminary betting, the crowd inciting the birds which fiercely attack each other, and the yells of joy and deception at the victory of one of them.


A warrior dance with its accompanying music.

7. GADUNG MELATI (Jasmine Song)

A traditional Gambuh melody for the scene of the Queen and her attendants at court. It is followed by BAPANG GEDE (Vigorous Action), a more lively music for the meeting and fight between Prince Tarate-Bang and Prince Panji in a burnt-out forest.


This is the introductory music, gathering the spectators for a shadow puppet performance (wayang kulit) while the dalang (storyteller) performs with invisible puppets behind an invisible screen.


This song is an aria from Ardja, performed chorally. The text exhorts us to empty our hearts and fill them with the good principles of Dharma, the Universal Law.


A scene from the classic dance of the same name. It is the moment when the Condong, the court attendant, calls in two dancers and transforms them into the two protagonists: the King Lasem who wishes to make approaches to Princess Rankesari.


In this song from Ardja, Prince Mantri Manis sings of the pleasure of being young and of his delight in making himself beautiful. As in Gambuh, the aristocratic roles in Ardja are alus (soft and refined) and are interpreted by women.


A song and dance performed both sitting and standing. It takes place when young people meet, allowing a group of girls and boys to establish a relationship of merriment and flirtation.


A dance which is led by women who take the initiative in order to seduce a man. They invite him to dance, challenging him to exhibit his temperament and skills.

EXTRA NUMBER: SINOM LADRANG (The Brightness of Youth)

A traditional melody for gangsa and flutes + choral song.


Performers and musicians:

Ni Wayan Nugini, Ni Kadek Ariantini, Ni Ketut Sri Kotawati, Ni Made Srimpi, Ni Wayan Phia Widari Eka Tana, Kadek Wistin, Kadek Dian Pratiwi, Oktavitin, Ni Wayan Sudiani, Ni Nyoman Juniati, Ni Nyoman Tjandri, I Wayan Bawa, I Wayan Naka, I Made Lesit, I Made Suamba, I Nyoman Doble, I Ketut Buda.Astra, I Wayan Kader, I Wayan Rawa, I Wayan Marca, I Wayan Budiarsa, I Wayan Martawan, I Made Suteja, I Wayan Suamba, Ida Bagus Made Kertayasa, I Ketut Lida, I Made Merta, I Ketut Karwan, I Ketut Suwana, I Ketut Sandi, I Made Budiana, I Made Renanta, I Nyoman Suwida.



I Wayan Bawa (Bali) is son of I Nyoman Sadeg, a renowned interpreter of the masked dance drama Topeng. Since his youth he has studied Gambuh, Topeng and Tjalonarang, the drama of magic, under the guidance of I Made Djimat, one of the great Balinese dance masters. He has also been a student of the Dance Academy in Denpasar, STSI, and now is the artistic director and main teacher for the male roles of the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble. He has collaborated with ISTA since 1995 and is a permanent member of the Theatrum Mundi Ensemble, participating in the performances Ur-Hamlet and The Marriage of Medea directed by Eugenio Barba. Since 2000 I Wayan Bawa also travels alone to give workshops and present his performance work demonstration The Total Actor created in collaboration with Julia Varley.


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Performance work demonstration



Song, dance and acting techniques from Bali

A performance work demonstration with I Wayan Bawa


I Wayan Bawa starts the performance with an offering and an excerpt from Gambuh, the oldest Balinese form of dance-drama dating from the 15th century. He enacts the character of the strong king in full costume introducing the spectators to the intense richness and connection between the Balinese religious ceremonies and the stage art forms.

Then I Wayan Bawa makes a short autobiographical presentation and explains some of the basic principles of Balinese theatre, dance, music and vocal techniques: posture, steps, right and left position, manis and keras (soft and strong), composition and feelings in both male and female characters.

The main part of the performance is dedicated to Topeng, the well-known Balinese mask dance. First I Wayan Bawa gives a short explanation of the characteristics of each mask: the silent full masks, the speaking half masks, the penasar who has the task of explaining the story to the audience and the comic bonres (clowns) who interact with the spectators. I Wayan Bawa then performs a sequence of fixed forms and improvised dialogue which traditionally starts with the Topeng Tua (the old man) and ends with Sidya Kharya (the divinity who ends the dance) by sprinkling blessed water and holding a white cloth as protection against evil spirits.


Workshop on Balinese Mask Dance

Led by I Wayan Bawa


I Wayan Bawa will introduce the participants to Balinese dance basic principles which give the necessary stamina for postures which engage the whole body. He will teach the rules of composition and modulation of energy and train the participants' voice through songs and spoken sequences. All these principles are useful to actors despite tradition and personal aesthetical choices. A workshop of at least three days will give the possibility to get acquainted with the use of Balinese masks.

Number of participants: 16, with comfortable work clothes.




Supported by Odin Teatret and ICK (Interkulturelt Center)


About the Gambuh Fund

By Julia Varley


All of us who knew Cristina Wistari Formaggia were worried about what would happen with the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble after her death. Cristina had dedicated herself completely to this Balinese village troupe of dancers and musicians in order to save the ancient Gambuh style of dance/drama from extinction. She took care of the artistic coherence, of finding the masters to teach the children, of guaranteeing the funds to pay for rehearsals and performances.

Odin Teatret has collaborated with Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble since 1998 for various ISTA (International School of Theatre Anthropology) sessions and symposiums, and for two intercultural performances, UR-HAMLET and THE MARRIAGE OF MEDEA. Consequently Eugenio Barba and the Odin actors have spent various weeks with the ensemble either in Bali or abroad, sometimes even twice a year.

After Cristina's death, in October 2008 Eugenio Barba and I visited the ensemble in Bali to plan how to help them continue their work. The visit was a success, and the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble has continued its activities in Bali and abroad until now, including a tour to Wroclaw, Poland, in June 2009, to perform UR-HAMLET directed by Eugenio Barba and all their repertory of performances, and a tour with the new artistic director, I Wayan Bawa, to Denmark and Italy in 2011, giving workshops and presenting the new work demonstration THE TOTAL ACTOR.

At the meeting in 2008 we spoke about the responsibility of continuing the work Cristina Wistari Formaggia had established. For the members of the Ensemble it was important to maintain the Gambuh tradition alive and confront the big task of organisation, promotion and teaching that lay ahead. Since then the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble rehearse Gambuh once a week, the Theatrum Mundi productions once a month, teach Gambuh to children weekly every Saturday, perform twice a month for paying spectators and at temple ceremonies each time they are invited. Their ambition is to perform once a week and to have their performances recognised by the State so they can perform in the morning for tourists interested in this ancient form of dance. Every member of the ensemble receives a minimum payment for their work.

I Made Suamba speaks for the ensemble and I Wayan Bawa is responsible for the artistic quality. Musicians which are masters in other forms than Gambuh have also been integrated in the Ensemble together with some younger dancers and musicians. The Italian Consul in Bali, Pino Confessa, gives administrative support when needed. Milvia Terenzi, another Italian living in Bali, assisted the Ensemble for the first tour abroad.

Many theatre groups and friends who were acquainted with the work which Cristina Wistari Formaggia developed with the Balinese Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble have wanted to help, also economically. We all have the wish that the Ensemble and its Gambuh school can continue so as to preserve this ancient tradition which risks disappearing.

So in 2008 Odin Teatret started the Gambuh Fund to collect money to help pay the monthly salaries and expenses in Bali. Since 2011 IKC (Interkulturelt Center) from Copenhagen gives a yearly support. The Gambuh Fund is part of the Stanislavski Fonden (a fund to which Odin Teatret actors pay 1% of their salaries in order to support projects around the world) but with separate accounts. The costs to be met are about 15.000 Euro a year.

We are happy to receive even small contributions.

If you would like to help please send the money to

Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium/ODIN TEATRET, Nordea Bank Danmark A/S, Nørregade 14, 7500 Holstebro,

in Danish Kroner, Reg. 2379, Konto 6271 762 532, SWIFT/BIC    NDEADKKK, IBAN    DK1820 0062 7176 2532

in Euro: Reg: 2379, Konto 5036 262 755, SWIFT/BIC   NDEADKKK,  IBAN      DK9420 0050 3626 2755

Marking it: Gambuh.


Other supporters:

Alberta and Ettore Formaggia, Italy; Agnete and Tom Strøm, Norway; Annelis Kuhlmann, Denmark; Erik Exe Christoffersen, Denmark; Nando Taviani, Italy; Franco Ruffini, Italy; Juste Ruskyte, France; Laura Mariani - Claudio Meldolesi, Italy; Mario Raimondo, Italy; Mirella Schino, Italy; Nicola Savarese, Italy; Raimondo Guarino, Italy; Stefano Geraci, Italy; Teatro de La Abadía, Spain; Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo, Italy; Wout van Tongeren, The Nehterlands.
















































































































































































































































































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