Young janger dancer

This wooden bust of a young Janger dancer is sublimely carved by an anonymous woodcarver between circa 1938 and 1950. The girl wears two large subeng (ear studs) and a richly decorated headdress with a flower in the middle. Her collar is also beautifully decorated. But most impressive is her pretty, lifelike face.

Janger is a flirtatious youth group dance that was very popular in the 1930s. The dance is performed by ten pairs of young men and women with gamelan or gender wayang instruments playing in the background. The group of women is called janger, while the men are called kecak.

The men form two rows facing each other and the women are sitting in another two rows, thus forming a square together. The boys are sitting cross-legged, while uttering short repetitive sounds and doing intricate hand movements which are derived from pencak silat (traditional martial arts) movements. The girls are kneeling and singing a janger song while dancing and making weaving patterns with their hands.

It is believed that the Janger dance was started by women farmers, who sang joyously in groups as a way to entertain themselves and relieve their exhaustion from a long day of work in the rice fields. This developed into a dance and became a means to meet young men from other villages. See below the original footage of Janger dance performance in 1933.

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