Yum Yiu ‘25
Arja Saraswati Puja tells the story of the Goddess Saraswati, who descended from the heavens to bring knowledge and understanding to humankind. Performed by a group of international artists from Indonesia, this contemporary Balinese performance was a revolutionary experience even for someone like me, who grew up in a diverse country like Singapore.
As I am currently taking an acting class, I have a better understanding of the difficulties that actors and actresses have to overcome. It is incredibly hard to improve as an actress, in my opinion. Our flaws in our acting skills are like those undesirable habits caused either by our insecurities or unconscious repetition. To get rid of these habits, you have to be open to advice and work on them. It is almost like changing as a person. The process is slow, even frustrating sometimes.
I was lucky to be able to meet the artists in person. Prior to the performance, I had an in-person class that allowed me to learn about the Balinese arts in depth. To my surprise, the artists are about the same age and the same height as me. They all seem very kind and friendly. However, the moment they stepped on the stage, they embodied a brand new personality. They not only walked and talked in characters, they also seemed to have to change their physiques to match the characters. It was hard for me to imagine how much space they were able to occupy on stage.
I learnt during class that all the movements in the Balinese dance are variations of the basic movements. At first, I thought to myself about how this could be very limiting in terms of the portrayal of characters. However, for the performance, I saw so much difference in their movements that I couldn’t believe it was all just variations of the basic movements. Perhaps having a basic structure allows them to be able to develop more freely as they just have to adjust accordingly with the guidance. On the other hand, I have no limitations to what I do, but most of the time, I feel lost as I do not know where to start.
Another thing that amazed me was the structure of their performance. Each main character is accompanied by a servant who will repeat and reinterpret what their master has said. This structure at first glance seems redundant as the length of the show has been stretched out unnecessarily. However, I was informed that the main character speaks in ancient Balinese language that not even the Balinese themselves would understand. This makes the interpretation of the servants more meaningful because the audience can appreciate the art of ancient language without failing to understand the story itself. Even though it makes the show longer, the artistic value within seems definitely worth it.
Everything about their performance fascinates me, but they also act as a reminder of the gap between the professionals and I. I could never imagine memorizing pages of script in another language that I couldn’t speak. Their dedication and determination inspires me.
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