February 10, 2013

Erika Batdorf: studying Toepeng dance in Bali

Topeng Masks Topeng Masks, made by Erika’s teacher.

I just spent the last month participating the the Dell’Arte International program in Bali, where I am living for my sabbatical. It was a great way to both study some Balinese dance and learn about this great program, which I have known about for years (and I got to meet the renowned Joan Shirle, who runs the Bali program and Dell’Arte’s MFA). It is one of the few physical theatre oriented MFA’s in existence and has a focus on mask and clown, so Bali, with its traditions of mask work, mask making and clown, is a logical place for them to have a foreign training program. The participants (4 of whom were Canadian) were taking either mask carving or shadow puppet training and daily dance classes. I focused on the Topeng dance classes, as I am also writing a play and could not afford to lose the entire day. I started in both the women’s dance and the Topeng classes, but since I had to miss a full week—for a collaboration with a Sydney visual artist to prepare for an installation/performance we are doing in Finland in June—I ended up being in the Topeng class only!  It is a great program that allows for an inside view of the theatrical magic that is Bali!

Topeng Dance Class Topeng Dance Class (Erika is on the far right)