Meaning and Origins of 5 Classical Dances from Central Java

Meaning and Origins of 5 Classical Dances from Central Java – Sinaumed’s, as we all know that dance is a form of culture that is full of meaning. Jazuli (2008) in the Contextual Paradigm of Art Education states that dance is a beautiful form of movement, born from a body that moves, rhythmically, and has a soul according to its intent and purpose.

Furthermore, Soedarsono (1986) through his Introduction to Dance Knowledge and Composition in Knowledge of Dance Elements and Some Dance Problems also added that dance is an expression of the human soul which is expressed by beautiful rhythmic movements.

Dance is a rhythmic movement which (with awareness) is formed with the body as a medium in space. This art can then become a cultural statement. This is why the nature, style, and function of dance cannot be separated from the culture that produces it.

Indonesia on the other hand consists of various tribes and very diverse cultures, thus producing dances that also have different characteristics. One area that has various types of classical dance is Central Java.

This province, which has a thousand cities in Semarang, has many dances, most of which still survive today. There are interesting facts behind the emergence of some of these dances to become part of the cultural development of Central Java.

So, what are the classical dances? In the following, we will present brief explanations and facts about 5 classical dances that are still developing in Central Java today.

1. Ampil Kridha Warastra Jurit Dance

Jurit Ampil Kridha Warastra dance is a classical dance originating from the city of Salatiga. This dance has meaning, namely jurit which means “warrior”, garwa ampil which means “concubine” (from Mangkunegara I), and warastra which means “gendewa”.

In general, the dance depicts the garwa ampil (concubine) troop of Mangkunegara I in the Salatiga Agreement which was executed on March 17, 1757. Each party (Hamengkubuwana I, Pakubuwana III, and Mangkunegara I) in the agreement agreed to bring and show their strength his troops. Mangkunegara I himself also showed some of the bregada (army units) he brought with him, one of which was the Jurit Ampil, namely the soldiers’ unit of the daughters of his concubines.

This dance is classified as a loose dance, meaning that it can be performed in teams, pairs and singles. The classical elements of the dance are contained in the movements, song accompaniment, clothing, and make-up, but now it has been combined with new elements that keep up with the times.

This dance is also a fusion of Surakarta style classical dance and folk dance, which take many movements from the Warrior dance. The musical accompaniment uses Javanese gamelan with pelog tunings which include gender, kendhang, demung, saron, kenong, kempul, and gong, while the forms of the music are smooth , srepeg , and palaran .

The clothing worn in the dance is a princess warrior dress with her hair in small buns and wearing a golden crown. The main shirt is blue, short-sleeved with gold decoration, belt and dodot, while the pants are knee-length.

For his weapons, he uses jemparing (archery), endhong , nyenyep , gendewa , and cundrik. The makeup of the dancers aims to help shape the character and soul of a soldier.

2. Warrior Dance

The Warrior Dance is a traditional dance in the form of a mass dance that first appeared in Getasan Village, Getasan District, Semarang Regency, Central Java Province. This dance then developed into other areas in Semarang Regency with different versions of origins and themes, including Ambarawa District, Banyubiru District, Sumowono District, and Ungaran City. This dance also developed in Salatiga City, to be precise in Tegalrejo Village, Argomulyo District, Salatiga City.

The elements contained in the dance include clothing, make-up, movement, and musical instruments. This dance is indeed included in the category of group dances, but the number of dancers is sometimes adjusted according to the needs and size of the venue.

This dance on the other hand is not a dance of new creations which is more dynamic and has many variations according to the tastes of young people. This is because the movements and accompaniments tend to be monotonous. Folk dances are also rarely performed, so people don’t appreciate them, not even a few don’t know about them.

This dance procession is thick with the nuances of war, which can be seen from the clothes of the dancers and their movements that carry weapons following the accompaniment of gamelan organs. The dance in its implementation has undergone changes along with the times and the various factors that influence it. One of the intrinsic factors of change in this dance can be seen from changes in the composition of the dancers.

At the beginning of its appearance, this dance was danced by male dancers, but now it is also danced by female dancers. This is why the makeup used is male makeup. In addition, the real influence on the appearance of this dance is the modern songs that are performed to accompany it. The extrinsic factors that drive changes in the composition of dancers are economic and market reasons, not merely functional reasons for art as entertainment.

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Warrior dancers used to only wear cloth pants and ngligo (not wearing clothes). The clothes worn by the dancers of the warrior section currently consist of trousers, camouflage cloth, beskap, songkok, and sampur, while the dancers of the Manggalayuda (war leader or line leader) use trousers, camouflage cloth, beskap, blangkon, and keris.

The movements performed in the Warrior dance include:

  • Lumaksana , means that humans must be responsible for carrying out their duties and always remember God Almighty;
  • Merong megar , means that humans must always look at various sides in carrying out their obligations;
  • Garuda nglayang , means that any action taken by humans must look at the state order. This movement is taken from the symbol of Indonesia, namely the eagle;
  • Nyongklang , means humans who travel in carrying out their duties;
  • Gedrug , means human awareness of life on earth;
  • Fishing sandals , means that one must face various problems patiently and not in a hurry;
  • Barn , means that all the results of the work to be used and stored properly.

The musical instruments used to accompany the Warrior dance include:

  • Jedhor , which is a small beduk made of teak wood and covered on both sides with goat skin. The bat is made of teak wood with black rubber wrapped around the end. Diameter size + 25 centimeters;
  • Dhodhog kendang , which is a smaller drum than jedor made of teak wood. One side is closed using goat skin, while the other side is left open. The bat is made of teak wood with black rubber wrapped around the end. Diameter size + 12.5 centimeters;
  • Bendhe , namely the gamelan organ made of iron and brass, while the beaters are made of teak wood wrapped in black rubber. Bendhe consists of majors (diameter + 20 centimeters), keprah (diameter + 18 centimeters), successors (diameter + 18 centimeters), and kenthing (diameter + 15 centimeters).

Jedor and dhodhog drums are hit almost simultaneously, only one beat apart. The majors and keprak are beaten monotonously, while the successor and kenthing are beaten alternately. When changing movements, use the whistle brought by Manggalayuda as a marker.

3. Ireng Mask Dance

Based on stories circulating in the community, the Topeng Ireng art began to develop among the people on the slopes of Merapi–Merbabu since the Dutch colonial era, which then continued its development in the 1960s.

At that time, the Dutch colonial government prohibited the public from practicing silat as a precautionary measure so that the people would not have the skills if they later resisted. This is what made the local people develop the various silat movements into folk dances.

At first, the dance was presented to the accompaniment of gamelan music and Javanese songs, which in essence concern various advice about the goodness of life. This art is growing when presented as part of the construction procession of mosques and prayer rooms.

Before being installed, the dome of the mosque will usually be paraded around the village first. The carnival or procession will be followed by all the people around the mosque with dances accompanied by tambourines and hymns of praise. This is what later caused this dance to develop into the Topeng Ireng art.

The name “topeng ireng” itself comes from the word kenceng rhythm plates . Tata means “arrange”, plate means “straight”, rhythm means “tone”, and kenceng means “loud/fast”. Therefore, the dancers perform this dance in straight lines and accompanied by loud and enthusiastic rhythmic music.

This dance is a form of traditional art performance that combines Islamic religious symbols and the martial arts of pencak silat. Not surprisingly, Topeng Ireng is always accompanied by Islamic rhythms and songs. Aside from being a symbol of Islam, the Topeng Ireng performance also depicts the lives of rural communities living on the slopes of Merapi–Merbabu. Judging from its firm movements, this dance describes the physical strength possessed by the village community when fighting or making friends with nature to defend their lives.

Before being known as Topeng Ireng, this performing art was known as the Dayakan art. The name is based on the costumes worn by the dancers, namely the lower clothing worn by the dancers resembling traditional Dayak clothing.

Around 1995, the word Dayakan was considered to contain SARA elements. This is what later made this art changed its name to Topeng Ireng art. However, the name Dayakan has been popularized again since 2005, thus making this art known by two names, namely Topeng Ireng and Dayakan.

4. Gambyong Dance

Gambyong dance is a form of classical Javanese dance originating from the Surakarta region. This dance is usually performed to welcome guests. Gambyong is not just one dance, but consists of many choreographies – the best known are the Gambyong Pareanom Dance (with several variations) and the Gambyong Pangkur Dance (with several variations).

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Before the Mangkunegaran Duchy reorganized and standardized the structure of its movements, the dance belonged to the people as part of agricultural ceremonies so that the rice planted would thrive and obtain an abundant harvest. Dewi Sri is described as dancers who are dancing. Now, the Gambyong dance is used to enliven wedding receptions and welcome guests of honor or statehood.

In general, the Gambyong dance consists of three parts, namely the beginning, the content, and the end (in terms of Javanese dance, the Surakarta style is called the advanced beksan, beksan , and backward beksan ). The center of the whole dance lies in the movement of the feet, arms, body and head.

Conceptual head and hand movements are the main characteristic of the dance. The dancer’s eyes always accompany or follow every movement of the hand and the direction of the fingers. In addition, the foot movements that are so harmonious in rhythm make the dance beautiful to look at.

The clothes worn by the dancers are colored yellow and green as a symbol of prosperity and fertility. Before the dance begins, it is always opened with Pangkur gending. Movement techniques, rhythm, accompaniment, and drum patterns in this dance are also able to display the dancer’s flexible character.

5. Serimpi Dance

Serimpi is a form of presentation of classical Javanese dance from the Mataram Sultanate tradition, which was then continued to be preserved and developed until now by its four heir palaces in Surakarta and Yogyakarta. Serimpi dance in the Sultanate of Yogyakarta is classified into Serimpi Babul Layar, Serimpi Dhempel, and Serimpi Genjung. For Surakarta Sunanate, Serimpi is classified into Serimpi Anglir Mendhung and Serimpi Sangupati.

The emergence of this dance began when the Mataram Sultanate was ruled by Sultan Agung in 1613–1646. This dance is considered sacred because it is only performed in the palace environment for state rituals and the commemoration of the sultan’s ascension.

In 1775, the Mataram Sultanate split into two, namely the Yogyakarta Sultanate and the Surakarta Sultanate. This division has an impact on the differences in the movements of the Srimpi dance between the two, even though the essence of the dance is still the same. This dance appeared in the Surakarta Sunanate environment around 1788–1820.

Since the 1920s, this classical dance practice was included in the Taman Siswa subject in Yogyakarta and in the Kridha Beksa Wirama dance or karawitan association. After Indonesia’s independence, this dance was taught at the government dance and karawitan academies, both in Surakarta and Yogyakarta.

The presentation of this dance is characterized by four dancers performing graceful movements depicting politeness, delicacy and gentleness. Serimpi is considered to have a similar social position to the Pakarena dance from Makassar, which is seen in terms of the softness of the dancers’ movements and as a palace dance.

Since ancient times, the Serimpi dance has had a special position in Javanese courts and cannot be compared to other staged dances because of its sacred nature. In the past, this dance could only be performed by people chosen by the palace. Serimpi has the same sacred level as heirlooms or objects that symbolize the power of the king, although it is not as sacred as the Bedhaya dance.

In its performance, this dance does not always require offerings like the Bedhaya dance, but only at certain times. The musical accompaniment for the Srimpi dance prioritizes a combined choir, namely when singing Javanese songs.

Serimpi has experienced many developments from time to time, one of which is the duration of the performance. The dance has now been developed into several new variants with shorter durations. For example, Serimpi Anglirmendhung was changed to 11 minutes and Serimpi Gondokusumo was changed to 15 minutes, both of which were originally presented with a duration of approximately 60 minutes.

So, that’s a brief explanation of the Meaning and Origins of 5 Classical Dances from Central Java. These dances generally fade away with the times. For this reason, friends of Sinaumed’s, let us protect and preserve the culture of our ancestors together. Do not let us lose to cultures from outside Indonesia which are now better known globally, such as Anime, Korean Pop, and Gangnam Style Dance.

Sinaumed’s can also visit sinaumedia’s book collection at to obtain references about social conditions in the Central Java region. The following are recommendations for sinaumedia books that Sinaumed’s can read to study them in full. Happy reading.

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Author: Fandy Aprianto Rohman