After vanishing for a period of time, the arrow-and-shield baris dance, an authentic dance from Batan Poh hamlet in Sanur, has been brought to life once more.
The Batan Poh baris dance was created in the 1930s by Ida Bagus Putu Pegug, also known as Gus Putu Telaga, an artist from Griya Telaga Sanur. Unlike other baris dances, such as the sacred baris tombak, which uses spears when performed, and the baris kupu-kupu (butterfly), the dancers of the Batan Poh use arrows (panah) and shields (tamiang or perisai) in their performance.
The arrow in the dance is believed to symbolize purusa (man), while the shield symbolizes pradhana (woman). Pegug came to create this version of the baris dance thanks to inspiration from the philosophies behind the geguritan (ancient Balinese) literature, the “janger” song, and the “tembang guntang” (the songs accompanying the gamelan guntang when played for the arja, or Balinese comedy).
Around 1964, there was a failed attempt to commercialize the dance. The arrow-and-shield baris dance was performed only during specific temple ceremonies (odalan). Fewer people learned the dance, and, as time passed by, the dance vanished. At the beginning of 2000, this arrow-and-shield baris dance was once again welcomed on stage at the Bali Arts Festival (PKB) and since then, the hamlet, led by its dance conservator I Wayan Warta, has been motivated to continue with its preservation.
Warta, who has also been honored with the title Jero Mangku Warta, was entrusted to perform the sacred dance of Topeng Dalem Sidakarya, and had learned the arrow-and-shield baris dance while still a teenager. He recalled that Pegug, the dance’s creator, was already an elderly man who walked with a cane while training him to follow the dance moves.
“You can if you want [to learn],” Warta, 60, repeatedly encourages his young students, while teaching them the dance movements, expecting them to not only memorize the moves but also to be able to present the moves with a dynamic flow. Warta said that to be able to completely preserve the arrow-and-shield baris dance required effort from all parties, as well as sincere dedication rather than a focus on material gains.