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Yogyakarta Classic Dances

Yogyakarta Classic Dances

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YOGYAKARTA CLASSIC DANCES

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A. Overview

As a city famous for its culture, Yogyakarta has many classic dances which have existed since a long time ago. The classic dances of Yogyakarta that flourished in the keraton (royal palace) neighborhood are cultural works of high artistic values that defines the city along with many other aspects.

In general, artistic and cultural activities that feature classic dances are still practiced in the two palaces in Yogyakarta (The Palace of Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Sultanate and Pakualaman Palace). Among the dances are:

  • Bedhaya Sang Amurwabhumi. This dance is the creation of Sultan Hamengku Buwana X. The dance is a form of legitimacy for the position of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana X philosophically symbolizing his vow to swargi (the late Sultan Hamengku Buwana IX) that his attitude as a king will include determination, firmness, tolerance, and good deeds for others. The concept and basic idea of the dance was created by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana X, while the choreography was by KRT Sasmintadipura. Bedhaya Sang Amurwabhumi was performed for the first time at Kencono Hall during the ceremony of inauguration of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana X and National Hero title giving for Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana IX in 1990. The dance was performed by nine ladies for two and a half hours, accompanied by a dramatic strain of music, implying affection as the essence of King’s attitude towards his people. Bedhaya Sang Amurwabhumi, like other bedhaya dances, is based on the tradition and basic model of a bedhaya dance. The basic story is taken from Serat Pararaton, the annals of Tumapel and Majapahit Empire. Bedhaya Sang Amurwabhumi tells story of Sang Amurwabhumi (Ken Arok) and Prajnaparamita (Ken Dedes), which symbolizes patriotism and leadership.
  • Bedhaya Herjuna Wiwaha. This dance tells story of the inauguration of KGPH Mangkubumi to become Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana X.
  • Bedhaya Sapta. As what the name suggests (sapta = seven), this bedhaya is performed by seven dancers. This dance was created by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana IX and tells a story of two Sultan Agung delegation’s trip to Batavia, in which they have to face various hindrances.
  • Bedhaya Sabda Aji. This dance is performed by nine dancers and tells about Sabda Aji (King’s command) to the Royal Choreographer to work on the perfection of Golek Menak Dance. GKR Pembayun, daughter of Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana X, was one of the dancers in a Bedhaya Sabda Aji performance.
  • Bedhaya Angron Sekar. The dance tells story of Sutawijaya conquering Arya Penangsang. Arya Penangsang’s wife, Angron Sekar, is then planning to have a revenge but she unexpectedly falls in love with Sutawijaya. Bedhaya Angron Sekar is a work of KRT Sasmintadipura.
  • Bedhaya Golek Menak. The dance is also known as Beksan Menak as it puts a Golek Menak Puppet performance into dance. Golek Menak Dance is a kind of the classic dances of Yogyakarta which was created by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwana IX. The idea of the dance came up when the Sultan was watching a Golek Menak puppet show performed by a dalang (puppet master) from Kedu in 1941. The Sultan was very impressed by the show and came up with the idea of putting the puppet show into a dance performance. Beksa Golek Menak is based on the Chinese Menak story.
  • Golek. The dance celebrates feminine beauty and appeal.
  • Sekar Pudyastuti. This is a welcoming dance that features the gracious body movements of Yogyakarta women.
  • Golek Retno Adaninggar. The dance is performed in Golek Menak style and adapted from Golek puppet show. This solo dance depicts the time when a Chinese princess, Retno Adinanggar, after realizing that the enemy is capturing her beloved ones, is preparing herself for a war.
  • Topeng Putri Kenakawulan. This mask dance is an adaptation of a Panji (a Javanese hero in Javanese epic) story from the 15th century which tells about a love story between Princess Kenakawulan and Carangwaspa.
  • Klono Alus Jungkungmandeya. The dance is an adaptation of Mahabharata story, which portrays a love story between a young prince called Jungkungmandeya and Srikandi. This is a good example of smooth-styled dances.
  • Klono Gagah Dasawasisa. The dance is adapted from Mahabharata story. It tells a story of King Dasawasisa is falling in love with Wara Sumbadra.
  • Topeng Klono Alus. Adapted from a 15th century Panji story, this dance pictures a young prince, Gunungsari, in love with Ragil Kuning.
  • Topeng Klono Gagah. It is a love story between King Sewandana and Candrakirana. The dance is also adapted from a 15th century Panji story.
  • Jaka Tarub-Nawangwulan. It tells a story of a young man, Jaka Tarub, who peeps at a beautiful fairy from heaven, Nawangwulan, bathing in a pond while he is hunting birds in the jungle. He falls in love with the fairy so he takes the fairy’s clothes, forcing her to stay on Earth.
  • Retna Dumilah-Panembahan Senopati. The story in this dance is about Panembahan Senopati’s (the King of Mataram) war against Madiun in the 7th century in Java. The King of Madiun is defeated and gives her daughter, Retno Dumilah, a powerful kris to kill Senopati. But when Retno Dumilah is about to stab Senopati, he comes at her affectionately. Retno Dumilah’s kris loses its power and she finally becomes Senopati’s wife.
  • Srikandi-Larasati. The dance tells about a story of Srikandi. Nearing her marriage with Arjuna, Srikandi agrees to lock horns with Larasati to show who is stronger. Larasati, who challenges her, turns out to be the loser. But despite that, Srikandi still forces Larasati to marry Arjuna.
  • Srikandi-Suradewati. The story of the dance is about Srikandi’s jealousy towards Princess Suradewati. Srikandi challenges Suradewati to fight, which is won by Srikandi.
  • Rengganis-Widaninggar. The dance narrates the story of a Chinese princess, Widaninggar, who wants to take revenge over the death of her sister, who is killed in a fight for the love of Menak Djinggo. However, Widaninggar is defeated by Rengganis, a relative of the killer of her sister.
  • Umarmaya-Umarmadi. King Umarmadi, as the dance tells, must first defeat Umarmaya before he can go on killing Menak Djinggo. Umarmadi loses, but becomes close friends with Umarmaya.
  • Beksan Senggana-Saksadewa. The dance is a part of Ramayana story called “Senggana Duta”. Sri Rama commands Senggana (Hanuman) the white monkey to seek for his wife, Shinta. Senggana finds Shinta and devastates Argasaka, Rahwana’s kingdom. Giant Saksadewa, Rahwana’s son, is infuriated. He wants to kill Senggana but it is him who is killed in the final war.

  • Beksan Gathutkaca-Pergiwa. The dance depicts a part of Mahabharata epic n which Gathutkaca expresses his love to Pergiwa. Pergiwa accepts his love and promises him that she will always be at his side until death.
  • Beksan Carangwaspa-Kenakawulan. The story is a Panji story. Dewi Kenakawulan from Manggada Kingdom wants to test the power of Raden Panji Carangwaspa. If she loses, she will be his wife.
  • Beksa Umarmaya-Jayengpati. The plot of this dance is taken from Menak Djinggo story. Prabu Jayengpati, King of Tunjungyaban, steals “Sonsong Tunggalnaga” heirloom from Wong Agung Jayengrana. Adipati Umarmaya from Puserbumi Kingdom plans to try to get the heirloom back to Wong Agung Jayengrana. He makes it after defeating Prabu Jayengpati.

B. Features

Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat Sultanate is rich with great cultural products. Among them are the classic dances which are various in kinds. The dance tradition began when the Sultanate was first set up. It still prevails today and is expected to keep on developing in the future. The Sultanate has a sacred kind of dance, namely Bedhaya, that is the main model of all Yogyakarta feminine dances.

Classic dances are not only a body movement composition. Behind it, there is a story or deep philosophical meaning that contains lessons.

C. Location

Some of Yogyakarta-Mataraman style classic dances are performed in the Royal Palace of Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat and also in Pakualaman Palace in every inauguration ceremony or other events held by either two palaces. To watch the dancers practice, you can visit Bangsal Pagelaran in the north part of the Royal Palace every Sunday morning.

D. Access

The location of the Royal Palace in the center of Yogyakarta City makes it very easy to reach. It can be accessed by both private and public transportation.

As for Pakualaman Palace, from Adisucipto Airport you can take a Transjogja bus route 1A or 1B for Kusumanegara Street at Rp 3,000, then get off 25 minutes later at the bus stop in front of Pakualaman Palace. From there to the palace, you can walk for 50 meters. If coming from Giwangan Bus Station, you can take a route 4 or 12 city bus for Sultan Agung Street then stop before the palace. The bus fare is about Rp 3,000 (July 2010).

If departing from Lempuyangan Train Station, pedicab or horse cart is a very available means to get to Pakualaman Palace, costing around Rp 15,000. You can also take a taxi and pay about Rp 20,000. From Tugu Train Station, you can take a pedicab or horse cart, which will likely cost more or less Rp 10,000.

E. Ticket

To enter the Royal Palace’s front compartment, like Pagelaran and the surrounding, the admission ticket is Rp 5,000 while to get to the inside part of the palace through Keben section, the ticket is Rp 7,000.

Unlike in the Royal Palace, you will not be charged for anything in your visit to Pakualaman Palace. The second rank palace in Yogyakarta is open everyday from 08.00 to 17.00 West Indonesian Standard Time (WIST). As for the museum, it is only open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 09.00 to 13.30 WIST.

F. Accommodations and Other Facilities

There are some vast parking lots around Pagelaran compartment, Keben, and in the palace’s north square, Alun-alun Utara. There are many souvenir kiosks around the palace.

In the complex of Pakualaman Palace, there is the Grand Mosque of Pakualaman built in the time of Sri Paku Alam II. There are also the offices of Star FM Radio and other business ventures run by Paku Alam Royal Family.


Text: Adi Tri Pramono
Translation: Reza Daffi
Photo(s): Collection of Jogjatrip.com
(Primary data and various sources)



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If you are from outside Yogyakarta and want to visit this place by travel agency services,
please contact:

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Jl. Gambiran No. 85 Yogyakarta 55161 - Indonesia.
Telp. 0274 8373005/ 0274 414233
Email : maharatu@maharatu.com - maharatu257@yahoo.com
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