I shot these images of Kuda Kepang or Kuda Lumping dance last Saturday when walking around the Joo Chiat road. I initially wanted to shoot some street photography around the area, but then stopped to watch this for almost an hour. It’s not just a dance, it’s a trance dance. The dancers were possessed and went into trance state. They can perform some superhuman feats, such as eating glass (I missed this one as it already happened when I arrived), rolling their body on broken glasses and resistance to whipping like the one above and below.
This traditional dance originated from Java, Indonesia. The dancers stand astride painted and decorated wooden / bamboo horse (but only two dimensional) and move around the arena. The Javanese percussion ensemble (gamelan orchestra) accompanied the performance till the end. The possessed dancers showed some behaviors like a horse. They would eat something in a way like a horse would do. They would suddenly run fast like a horse toward the spectators and stop suddenly near them. It could be quite scary.
I believe that during the show, they would position people from their group around the arena to ensure that spectators are OK especially when the possessed dancers come near them. These “security guard” dress normally, like the one below, but they have the ability to calm the dancer. I saw him holding the head of the dancer and whispering something to him.
When the dancers were about to be “brought back” I noticed they used smoke first and then few people would hold the dancer on the ground as they were wrestling to keep the dancer on the ground. After few minutes of wrestling and other rituals I believe, the dancers were “back”. I am not sure if they remember what happened.
The dancer were fed. “They” seemed hungry.
All photos were shot with Leica M9 and Leica 90mm Summarit f/2.5.