Java’s Trance Dance Horses

Java’s traveling performers of the well-loved trance dance are fast disappearing from the village scene.  These troupes of 4 to 10 male and female actors and musicians perform a dance imbued with magic.

Their principal props are woven, painted rattan horses, called KUDA LUMPING.  The actors pretend to be astride the Kuda Lumping by placing the 2-dimensional, legless horse between their thighs.  The actors then ride rhythmically in pairs until one dancer becomes “possessed” by a magical power.  The possessed rider begins to gallop at a frenetic pace while performing trance-induced feats such as chewing glass.

Eventually, the possessed rider dies and is buried by the other riders in a “tomb”, two of the horses covered with a cloth.  The dead rider reemerging in a terrifying mask, to the shrieks of delighted terror from the children in the audience, signals the end of the performance.

Sadly, competition from radio and television forced one of the last trance dance troupes to disband several years ago.  We acquired several of their horse props, fine examples of authentic Javanese folk art.  The manes of the horses are decorated with beads and the painting on the horses is very fine.  The horses are about 3 feet long and half as high with horsehair manes and tails.