Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gamelan Extravaganza in the Desert

Harrison House has a new outdoor stage, set just behind the building in the open desert. While my camera doesn't do it justice, the above photo gives you some idea of the magic afoot at the inaugural performance, which took place this past weekend: the CalArts Burat Wangi Gamelan orchestra and dance troupe, with 25 musicians and 15 dancers.

This was a true spectacle, even more so under the nearly full moon with a pack of coyotes howling their approval. The costumes were astounding, especially the flower-bedecked headdresses--my favorite had a burning incense stick, with the smoke wafting over the audience as the dance proceeded. The dancers use intricate hand and foot movements that take many years of training to master.

Around a half-dozen pieces were performed. I don't know anything about gamelan music, but for me the effect was hypnotic, almost trance-inducing. A friend described being in Bali and going to the temples to hear this music. The CalArts Burat Wangi Gamelan did indeed create the atmosphere of a temple in the desert. What a night!