Conservatory of Music
At the start of our trip in Bali, Indonesia I had set out to research women’s gamelan. All-women’s gamelan is still a fairly new concept, only popularized within the last 2-3 decades. From my white, Western feminist perspective, I had assumed the reason more women did not participate in gamelan had to do with empowerment. As we attended the women’s gamelan competition at the Bali Arts Festival I wondered if they wanted more out of their gamelan playing. Although the sight of an all-women’s gamelan is no longer out of the ordinary, they serve strictly entertainment and secular purposes as opposed to men’s gamelan, which also holds sacred purposes such as their performances at temple ceremonies, tooth filings, and cremations. It has been stated, however, by dancer and scholar I Wayan Dibia that in spite of context performers still feel they are performing for a “divine audience” (Gold, 2005, p. 18). Knowing Bali to be a patriarchal society I initially assumed structural and institutional practices were the only forces working to sustain the push for women to pursue dance rather than gamelan. While this still may be true, the women I had the privilege of working with made it sound like there was more to it.
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Barry, Brittany N., "Why Women Choose Dance: An Analysis of Balinese Women’s Participation in the Arts" (2016). Bali Soundscapes Essays. 15.