There are few dance forms as mesmerizing as that of the Balinese. With twitterlings of the fingers, wrists, neck and eyes, methodical anglings of the torso and careful patterings of the feet, the dancers build invisible spatial walls around themselves. Bodies move slowly, as if underwater or in heavey trance. The masked face freezes in a mannequin's grin or grimace, while the bare one glides through a thousand subtle emotional shadings.
A family of such finely tuned, mystical performers -- I Made Bandem, his wife Ni Swasti Bandem, and their 10-year-old daughter Ni Ari Bandem -- presented two contrasting Balinese works last night at Baird Auditorium. The first, a cool and intricate exchange between mother and child, spoke of many things: ritual fear poise, serenity, stylized sensuality. Dressed in magnificent robes of gold and magenta, Ni Swasti Bandem and her daughter danced in fits and starts, and wove smoothly about each other in slithery patterns, all the while matching their gestures to the gongs and clangings of the gamelan ensemble.
I Made Bandem is the Jerry Lewis of Bali. His portrayal of six characters in "The End of King Dukut" left one marveling at his dramatic range and dancing finesse. But why did he choose to speak English slang rather than his native tongue?