Dance Categories

Dance in West Java can be divided into five categories:

  1. Tari Kursus (Course of study dance)
  2. Tari Topeng (Masked dance)
    1. Topeng Cirebon
    2. Topeng Priyangan
  3. Tari Wayang (Dance drama)
  4. Tari Rakyat (Social or folk dance)
    1. Ketuk Tilu (Includes Jaipongan, Cikeruhan, and Bajidoran)
    2. Betawi
  5. Tari Kreasi Baru (New creation dance)

The dances from each of these categories is quite distinctive in its presentation. They do, however, have obvious similarities because they developed from the same tradition and each form has influenced the others. Thus, for example, the Tari Kursus was influenced not only by popular dance, but also was strongly influenced by the Topeng Cirebon (Mask Dance) Tumenggung.

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Four Principles

Sundanese dance requires firm dedication and commitment on the part of the student to work towards master of the four principles. Only when these principles are mastered, when everything is done meticulously and thoroughly, can the individual truly be called a dancer.


(raga = body)

A dancer must master the technique and choreogaphy of the dance.

(irama = music)

A dancer must understand the melody and rhythm of the music and to have a high sensitivity to the musical feeling.
3. Wirasa
(rasa = feeling, sense, test, sensation)
In presenting a dance, it is not enough to know the technique and choreography. The dancer must be able to unite the feeling of the movement and the feeling of the music. The result is a dance in perfect harmony.
4. Wanda
(wanda = character)
In the traditional dances that represent dramatic characters, the dancer must be able to become that character.

Historical Overview

West Java is also called Parahyangan, the Land of the Gods, and Sunda or Priangan. It refers to the area encompassing the former kingdoms of Banten in the west and Cirebon in the northeast, as well as the north coast and the mountains of West Java.

Traders and seafarers from what is now Indonesia probably traveled as far as India, China, the east coast of Africa, and into the Pacific for centuries before the common era. We know that beginning around two thousand years ago, West Java was a center for trade with other parts of Asia. It is believed that Sunda was one of the first regions on Java to trade with India. By the year 400 of the common era, a Hindu kingdom, Tarumanegara, existed in West Java.

Tarumanegara was destroyed in the 7th century by the Sumatran kingdom of Sriwijaya. By then, however, the effect of Indian influence was already seen in West Java, in dance forms, in the Ramayana and Mahabharata stories that formed the basis of the dance dramas, and in the elements of the martial arts, which became known as pencak silat. Both folk and classical dances reflect the influence of pencak silat in their movements.

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Interview with Dr. Gugum Gumbira

interview1Jaipongan is a modern choreographed dance form growing out of traditional Sundanese culture. It was created by a single individual and has a philosophical underpinning. It was created in a historic moment in response to a specific situation. The creator of jaipongan is Dr. Gugum Gumbira Tiransondjaja. He combined ketuk tilu, the folk drumming and dance style of West Java, with silat movements and traditional accompanying music, and added his own special spark. Dr. Gumbrira spoke to Harsanari on November 30, 2011 at his home and studio in Bandung. In response to our question, What would you like us to know about jaipongan, he gave these thoughts:

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