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Open Access When did <i>legong</i> start? A reply to Stephen Davies

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When did <i>legong</i> start? A reply to Stephen Davies

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image of Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde / Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia

Stephen Davies has recently opened up new ways of looking at the history of Bali’s premier dance form, legong. He has argued that legong started in the late nineteenth century, more specifically after 1887, probably in 1889, and that it is primarily derived from a form which Balinese presently call andir. Davies’ article involves a substantial reconsideration of the canonical nature of certain dance forms in Bali. The evidence Davies used is largely oral history. What is missing from Davies’ account is evidence from closer to the time period, evidence that can allow us to fix the date of the origins of legong more closely, and also to understand precisely what its performative and musical associations and origins might be. This evidence is present in Balinese and Dutch-language sources, and while there are limitations to these sources, they certainly modify Davies’ thesis.

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