Saturday, March 3, 2012

Joged: the sacred drag dance for babies' birthdays

In the past two weeks I finally got to see joged dances in family compounds. I say finally because Pak Terip is not only a bamboo specialist but the son of I Putu Togog, the inventor of the genre.

At the first joged, packed between rehearsals and performances at Undiksa for graduation and the fancy hotel, I was surprised how many men and women refused to dance when chosen. The first drag joged kept picking female partners. The cisfemale joged all got humped and nuzzled in inappropriate places by most of their choices, midst hilarious uproar. At the end of the night, the temple sash worn by each partner while dancing is tied around the father's waist and concluding blessings are given his three-month-old baby.

At the second, the dancing was marginally less offensive. Most of the young men, packed like sardines in the audience area, were morbidly afraid to partner when picked, running away, and some even refused to dance once onstage. At one special moment the head of the family danced and Putu signaled the group to play the Garuda-beating scene from Legong Keraton. Someone immediately threw leafy branches down from the road, which the dancers picked up to make great drama of beating each other's behinds and even the partner's groin. I continued to be impressed by evidence of how deeply ingrained the classical repertoire is in the Balinese public.

As a sex worker, I found it educational and thought-provoking. I struggled to balance the significance of sex workers and Western strippers against the overtly social, even sacred role of joged. Certainly the men seemed extremely entitled to the joged's bodies whereas the MTF drag bodies were unanimously shunned as undesirable. Yet there was no per-interaction cash exchange as there is with dancers in bars and clubs. The dancers were paid for performing by the host family.

Sanggar Seni Tripittaka during a recording session with Aneka Records last month.

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