Balinese boy Georgiana Triwinadi performs complex warrior dances of his country.

The 11-year-old Georgiana Triwinadi is no Pawan Putra Hanuman — the powerful monkey god revered by the Hindus — but he sure can fly. Georgiana's dreams and more than that, his innate love of the arts, have bequeathed to him the wings to fly with. And what a flight it is! A web of emotions, pride, anger, regret, prowess, chivalry takes him over one by one; the skill, energy and spirit work in tandem as Georgiana performs Baris, the ancient warrior dance, one of the most complex dance forms of the Indonesian island of Bali.

But it is not the rigorous eye movements or the strenuous postures of Baris which worry him: the tension that he might look fat in the body-hugging dance costumes makes him a little conscious on the stage. “My mother keeps bottles of instant milk in the refrigerator and whenever I feel hungry, I have one,” says Georgiana, perched comfortably on a chair outside the guest rooms in the new building of IGNCA. In one split second, he is like a quintessential child and in another, a seasoned performer, who says, when asked about his mental state on the stage, “Nervousness, excitement, pride, everything becomes one when I get onto the stage.”

Maiden performance

Giving his maiden performance in India during “Celebrating Inter-Cultural Dialogue between North East India and South East Asia” recently at IGNCA, Georgiana, a class six student, went through the same turmoil. And it is a healthy sign, according to I. Nyoman Sedana, Georgiana's father who has been training him in the discipline for the last nine years. “Baris is like the most basic of any male dance in our country. It's as important as learning A,B,C so every man who wishes to make a career in the performing arts has to learn this art form and he has to master it for a couple of years,” says Sedana, who runs Kamajaya Art Company, an art and cultural organisation in Bali.

Baris is one of the most important ritual dances. The name literally means line or file formation of soldiers. It refers to the soldiers who fought for the Balinese Kings. The dancer conveys the feelings of a young warrior preparing to go to the battlefield. “Apart from a range of emotions that one has to show, there are also very difficult postures like sitting on the heels and keeping the knees spread wide apart. The movements are called ‘ullapullap'. I sometimes cry during the practice but one has to do it,” says the young artiste.

“At times to get him to practise, I have to bribe him with ice-creams and other goodies. At times, he just wants to do his own thing, make changes here and there which is not quite right,” adds Sedana, feeling a little sad.

The tone fraught with disappointment on account of the unmet expectations from his son, resumes its excitement as he says, “Of the three levels — ‘Wiraga' which is about the form and structure, ‘Wirana', aspects related to music, and ‘Wirasa' dealing with rasas or emotions of the dance form, my son has reached the third stage. Since it is usually the 15-year-old boys and above who present the recital on stage, 11-year-old Georgiana performing it makes him one of the youngest dancers.”

Back home, an elaborate orchestra, called ‘Gamelan Gong' which has the gong at its core, accompanies Georgiana on the stage. “Sometimes as many as 100 people perform on stage, but we couldn't recreate that here. Also, Georgiana carried the wooden dagger not the real dagger called ‘Keris'. There are different kinds of Baris dance depending on the kind of weapon the dancer carries,” explains Sedana.

The beautiful headgear ‘gelungan', shaped like a cone full of adornments, adds to the magic, which Georgiana informs his father, has been traded off with a Cambodian dancer's headdress!

At this young age, Georgiana is also a trained puppeteer called ‘Dalang Chilik' in Indonesia and works with leather puppets. “Even here, Georgiana first handled the leather puppets and then enacted one of the characters on stage,” says Sedana, who in 2005 put up an exhibition of leather puppets at IGNCA. He now plans to send Georgiana to India to further hone his artistic skills. “I always regret why I didn't come to India when there are so many scholarships available. There is so much to learn here,” he says.