All about Java Indonesia

Reog Ponorogo, The Icons of East Javanese art

reog ponorogo dance

Reog ponorogo is one of cultures come from east java Indonesia, and Ponorogo district considered to be the originated city of reog dance. The gate of Ponorogo city decorated by warok figure and gemblak, two figures which perform in every reog performance. Reog dance is one of proofs that Indonesia’s area cultures are still rich of mysthical and spiritualism things, sure besides of another hundreds javanese dance also.

Basically, there are five popular version story developed in society regarding the history of reog ponorogo and warok, but the most famous is the story of Ki Ageng Kutu’s rebellion, a servant in the era of king Bra Kertabumi, the last king of Majapahit which reigned in 15th century. Ki Ageng Kutu was angry to the strong influence of king’s Chinese partner in government and to king’s corrupt attitude. He saw the power of Majapahit was about to end.

He left the king and established a school where he taught the youth martial arts and others knowledges with hope that these youth would be seeds of Majapahit’s resurrection. His political message conveyed through the performance of reog, which was a satire to the king and his kingdom.

In reog show, singa barong (a lion-head shaped mask) symbolized the king and the peacock’s feathers symbolized the strong influence of king’s Chinese partner toward all of king’s movement.

east java indonesia reog danceThe story of reog dancing is identical with criminal world, which also cannot be separated from mystical and supernatural things. Reog performs the mighty of pembarong in lifting dadak merak which weight around 50 kgs only with his teeth during the shows. The escort gamelan instruments are kempul, kethuk, genggam, ketipung, angklung, and especially salompret which produces slendro and pelog sound, and creating a mystical, unique, and exotic atmosphere, and encouraging as well.

One group of reog dance in east java usually consists of old warok, some young waroks, pembarong, bujang ganong dancers, prabu kelono suwandono and jatil. The member of reog ponorogo group approximately 25-35 peoples, and consists of 2-3 sequences of opening dance. The first dancing usually performed by 6-8 men with all-black wardrobe, and faces polished with red color, which called warok.

Warok is an army act based on truth in the battle of good and evil. Old warok is the figure of guardian, while young warok still in the stage of learning. warok in reog danceUp till now, warok considered as character which has to be master special supernatural power. Even, many bad stories spread about warok’s life. Warok is a character with stereotype: using loose black trousers and shirt, which own magic power.

Pembarong is someone who is stronger than common people, since pembarong has to be person with strong jaw, to hold dadak merak with his teeth. Dadak merak shaped round like lion’s head and decorated with peacock’s feathers, up to 2 meters height, and weight 50 kgs. Beside strength a pembarong has to be someone which knows art to combine dancing and strength while the reog performs.

jathilan, reog ponorogoJathilan or jathil are dancing perform by 2-6 young girls who ride horse toys (kuda lumping). In traditional reog ponorogo, these dancers usually played by male dancers but dressed and makes-up like woman. The dancing is escorted with a masked dancer, performed by a young male who has liveliness in dancing. This dance called ganongan dance.

Reog dance usually performed in special events such as celebrating Grebeg suro, wedding, circumcision, and celebrating Independence Day. As time goes by, reog often been invited to perform abroad, in the context of cultural mission.


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