For the second week of class Dag (filmaker)and Dya (dancer) gave lectures and led discussions on the ethics and methodologies of research, in particular in relationship to ethnographic films. The class discussions are very fruitful. Just when I thought that we must exhausted a certain topic of research methodologies during our discussions, looking at the topic from a new angle or bringing in our experience in the field once again sparks more discussion. The age old questions on methods and ethics can always be re-asked with fresh insights. One of the most enjoyable experiences was perhaps the live interviews at the Barong dance. The Barong dance is watched by over two hundred tourists every day. Our team divided the tasks. One or more people were responsible for interviewing several targeted group: actors, tourist guides, Chinese-speaking tourists, English-speaking tourists, Indonesian-speaking tourists and Spanish-speaking tourists. Barong dance tells the story of the battle between good and evil but at the end neither prevailed. Personally, I was quite disappointed with the performance (if you can call it so). The artistic quality was much lower than the Ramayana Ballet that we saw in Prambanan Temple. There were many tasteless sexual acts such as touching the butt of a female dancer, poke a male actor with broom sticks from behind for an extended period of time, and hitting the genitals with tree branches..etc. everything seemed so routine. Exept in one scene two female dancers dressed in the same style of Sarong performed beautifully.
As an audience the two female dancers’ performance was the most enjoyable. But as a researcher, all that happened during the performance was of interest to me. The audience’s reaction to certain scenes, when everybody snapped their cameras, who was laughing and who was loud and my own reactions… I surveyed my surrounding trying to find people holding brochures in Chinese while jogging down a long list of questions. I was a bit nervous about the interview that I didn’t pay attention to some part of the barong dance. Most tourists would catch the shuttle buses after the dance so I had to be quick. I got rejected twice before I found a group of three women from Beijing that were willing to be interviewed. They were quite articulate and diplomatic. I didn’t even have to ask most of the questions on my list. It was interesting to see how the dance contributes to tourists’ perception of Bali. They commented that the dance was “ok”. The artistic quality of the dance was quite coarse but they like the philosophy behind the story that neither good nor evil prevails at the end. They thought the sexual elements in the dance were “unnecessary”. They believed that what was represented in the dance is a part of the local culture and also a part of their Bali experience. They added “after all, the industrial world and the agricultural world are quite different.” Interview is one of those things you just have to do it live in order to truly understand the process.
The discussions at the end of the interviews helped to put many things in perspective. The actors and musicians in the barong dance are severely underpaid. The actors have to suffer the drudgery of doing the same dance 364 days a year. Not to totally discredit the performance. It provides a space for some actors to “play”. They do it because they like performing on the stage. For some female dancers it is a chance to get out of the confine of the household and their husbands. On the stage, spot light and camera lights shine on them. Some barong dancers are perpetrators during the 1965 massacre. Barong dance is a way for them to escape and deal with the violent past that still hunts them. I was so glad to leave the Barong dance not only with the dissatisfactions as a audience.