<<<January 2022>>>

Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble

In Bali



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)




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.



(The Stabbing of the Horse)


This Gambuh performance recounts one of the stories from the Malat, a cycle of the adventures of Prince Panji.

In this episode, Panji is on his search for his beloved Rangke-Sekar who has disappeared mysteriously. He has arrived in the Gegelang kingdom that had been attacked by the Pamotan and Kebalan kings. Having defeated his enemies, Panji is now about to be received at the Gegelang court.

Traditionally, the Malat epic is never shown in its entirety and the actors' entrances follow a codified succession.



The first scene stages the entrance of the condong, the first lady-in-waiting and confidant of Princess Ratnaningrat of the Gegelang kingdom. The condong summons the other four ladies-in-waiting (kakan-kakan) to pay homage to the princess, who then makes her entrance.



The second scene shows Panji and his retinue arriving at the Gegelang palace with his horse. Panji's three heralds (kadean-kadean) and the fourth herald Banyak Tarawarsa make their entrance followed by Rangga Tita-jiwa, Panji's aide-de-camp. They announce that they are going to pay homage to the princess.

Panji then makes his entrance, riding his horse and followed by his attendant Semar. His groom takes the horse and ties it to a tree. There is now an encounter between Princess Ratnaningrat and Panji who promises to teach her to play a tune on the gambang gamelan.

While Panji and his retinue arrive at Gegelang palace, Prabangsa, Panji's crazy half brother, has returned from gambling having suffered great losses.



The third scene begins with the entrance of Prabangsa's Chamberlain (Demang) and Commander-in-chief (Tumenggung) announcing his imminent arrival. Finally Prabangsa himself makes his entrance followed by his attendant Togog.. Seeing a horse tied beneath a tree, he asks who it belongs to. He is told that Panji is the owner. On hearing this, he immediately draws his kriss (dagger) and stabs the horse along with Panji's groom.

Panji's companions are angry. One of them moves to kill Prabangsa, but is restrained by Banyak Tarawarsa, a fellow kadean-kadean, who reminds him that it would not be right as Prabangsa is the king's nephew. However, Prabangsa continues to stir up trouble. The atmosphere is tense. Rangga Tita Jiwa, Panji's aide-de-camp, reports to Panji. He appears on the scene and a fierce fight ensues.

Prabangsa runs away while everybody insults him. The horse is not really dead and Panji heals it to the joy of everybody.

After this episode, Panji returns to the palace to bid farewell before continuing his journey.


In order of appearance


First Scene

Condong: Ni Nyoman Juniati

Kakan-kakan: Ni Kadek Ariantini, Ni Luh Anik Windasari, Ni Made Srimpi,

Ni Wayan Phia Widari Eka Tana

Princess: Ni Made Partini


Second scene

Kadean-kadean: I Wayan Purnawan, Ida Bagus Made Kertayasa, I Wayan Suamba

Banyak Tarawarsa: I Made Suteja

Rangga Tita-jiwa: Ni Wayan Nugini

Panji: Ni Wayan Sudiani

Semar: I Made Lesit

Horse: I Wayan Rawa


Third scene

Demang: I Ketut Lida

Tumenggung: I Wayan Martawan

Prabangsa: I Wayan Bawa

Togog: I Made Merta


Singer: Ni Nyoman Tjandri

Musicians: I Wayan Marca: drum (kendang); I Nyoman Doble: drum (kendang); I Wayan Kader: kempur; I Wayan Naka: flute; I Ketut Sandi: flute; I Ketut Karwan: flute; I Nyoman Suwida: violin (rebab); I Ketut Suwana: kajar; I Made Suamba, I Ketut Buda Astra, I Made Budiana, I Made Renanta.




Supported by Odin Teatret and IKC (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 Wayan 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 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.





Gambuh Fund



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