I Wayan Bawa (Bali) is son of I Nyoman Sadeg, a renowned interpreter of the masked dance drama Topeng. Since his youth he has studied Gambuh, Topeng and Tjalonarang, the drama of magic, under the guidance of I Made Djimat, one of the great Balinese dance masters. He has also been a student of the Dance Academy in Denpasar, STSI, and now is the artistic director and main teacher for the male roles of the Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble. He has collaborated with ISTA since 1995 and is a permanent member of the Theatrum Mundi Ensemble, participating in the performances Ur-Hamlet and The Marriage of Medea directed by Eugenio Barba. Since 2000 I Wayan Bawa also travels alone to give workshops and present his performance work demonstration The Total Actor created in collaboration with Julia Varley.
The Gambuh Desa Batuan Ensemble was created in 1993 in the village of Batuan as a project by Cristina Wistari Formaggia and supported initially by the Ford Foundation. The aim was to preserve and transmit the practice of this dance drama among the younger generation. In addition to teaching boys and girls, the permanent Gambuh Pura Desa Ensemble performs regularly in its village, in the temples of Bali and abroad.
In his demonstration The Total Actor, I Wayan Bawa starts an excerpt from Gambuh, the oldest Balinese form of dance-drama dating from the 15th century. After a short autobiographical presentation, he explains some of the basic principles of Balinese theatre, dance, music and vocal techniques: posture, steps, right and left position, manis and keras (soft and strong), composition and feelings in both male and female characters. The main part of the demonstration is dedicated to Topeng, the well-known Balinese mask dance.
I Wayan Bawa is, since 2016, participating in the Odin Teatret performance The Tree.
Theatrum Mundi performances
The Marriage of Medea
The Total Actor
Gambuh is Bali's oldest surviving ritual theatre, comparable to Noh theatre in Japan and Kathakali in India. Its music, literature, acting and dance originated in Java during the Majapahit era (1292-1527), at the apogee of the classical Hindu-Javanese court culture. Gambuh has not changed in essence during the 500 years of its recorded history and still mirrors the compelling atmosphere and figures of the ancient Javanese royal courts. Its characteristic epic form using acting, dance, dialogue, singing and music became the source of a multitude of dance and performance genres, that has made Bali such a strong inspiration for today's theatre in the East as well as in the West. Today Gambuh survives in only a few villages and is in danger of becoming extinct.
In Gambuh the main characters speak and sing in Kawi (an archaic literary language) accompanied by attendants who translate their dialogues into present-day Balinese. The Gambuh dancers sing and speak the text, often without fully understanding it, having learnt it through an oral tradition handed down through generations. The plays are taken from the Malat cycle of tales which revolves around the heroic mythical prince Panji's quest for his beloved Rangkesari. The Gambuh gamelan orchestra of drums, gongs, bells and flutes was already established before bronze metallophones, characteristic of most other gamelan orchestras in Bali, made an appearance. Thus the drumming patterns, tunes and musical structure of Gambuh form the basis of nearly all Balinese music.
Topeng, in Balinese, means mask. It is also the name for any performance with masked characters. Topeng takes its narratives from the Babad or Chronicles of the Balinese Kings, reflecting the complex hierarchy of Balinese society in its social, religious and political structure. In Topeng there are silent full masks, speaking half masks, the penasar who has the task of explaining the story to the audience and the comic bonres (clowns) who interact with the spectators. A Topeng performance traditionally starts with the Topeng Tua (the old man) and ends with Sidya Kharya (the divinity who ends the dance) by sprinkling blessed water and holding a white cloth as protection against evil spirits.