At first glance, one may think that all the Balinese mask dances look the same, but in fact they each have their unique qualities. In Bali, there are perhaps more than a dozen variations of mask dances. These mask dances are one of the many cultural performances that are passed down from generation to generation. Unlike other dances, where the dancers need to express emotion and character through motion and facial expressions, in a mask dance performance the dancers must be able to show their expressions through gestures alone.


Jauk is one example of a mask dance, however Jauk itself has two variations: JaukKeras and JaukManis. JaukKeras depicts the king of giants who wanders in the forest, a dynamic yet frightening figure. The brick red mask features two bulging eyes, a wide line of teeth that protrude from the mouth and a thick black moustache; these features are used to emphasize the fearsome look of the character. Nestled on the head is a cecandianheaddress, which represents a crown of a king. Meanwhile, the white gloves worn by the dancer are fitted with long nails, further displaying the characters menacing demeanour.

If we compare the routines in the JaukKeras to other classic Balinese dances, the routines appear to be less constrained to the ‘core’ traditional routines. In line with its name ‘Keras’ meaning hard, some improvisations are made to show the power of the demonic persona, but without straying too far from classical patterns; the routines of JaukKeras are thus performed with a firm finishing beat to emphasize the strength of the character.

AnakAgungBagusDwiAnugrahBawantara, or Dwi, started dancing in first grade at the dance school SanggarWarini. He recently performed an engaging portrayal of the JaukKeras. The SanggarMahardika Gamelan Orchestra from Kerobokan accompanied Dwi throughout his performance, showing a flawless blend of music and dance. The performance was held in Tugu Hotel Bali, in Canggu, with the sounds of the rolling waves coming in from just beyond the walls. !

Text & Photos By Kartika D Suardana