Last night the CPGC treated us to a Ramayana Ballet performance. The “ballet” took place outdoors in the complex of the Prambanan, a 9th century Hindu temple. It was not ballet as I know it — no twirling or tutus — consisting instead of highly exaggerated steps, hand gestures, and facial expressions. There were violent men, graceful floating women, and scary ape-men. The costumes were absolutely gorgeous: batik sarongs, gold belts, elaborate headdresses, and masks or heavy makeup. The plot (outlined in the awkwardly-translated program) was hard to follow because there are about a dozen people with long names that start with R. Here’s a taste, the penultimate scene:
“When the giant troops of Alengka are on their guard at their country boundary, they are suddenly attacked by the ape troops. Therefore a big war occurs between them. In this war Indrajid is killed by Laksmana. Kumbakama, the youner brother of Rahwana, died as a patriotic hero. After the death of Kumbakama, Rahwana finally becomes the commander of the Alengka troops to face Rama. In this war, Rahwana is killed by Rama’s arrow and Hanuman drops the Mount Sumawana on Rahwana.”
The most exciting scene came at the end of the first act, when Hanuman (the white monkey) is sentenced to be burnt alive. He grabs the torches from his guards as the prepare for his execution, runs to the top of the stage, and sets everything on fire.