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Gender, Cross-dressing and Androgyny in Balinese Dance

Bali 1928 Repatriation Project

Join Edward Herbst, Director of the Bali 1928 Repatriation Project for a lecture and film screening on gender, crossing-dressing and androgyny in 1930’s archival films in Balinese dance-drama.

When: 5-7pm, Tuesday 27 March

Where: Lecture Theatre N395, John Woolley Building, University of Sydney (entry via Science Road)


Films by Colin McPhee, Jane Belo, Miguel Covarrubias, Gregory Bateson, and Rolf de Maré with Claire Holt document a time when both male and female roles were performed by men and boys in all dance-dramas. With the exception of one genre that originated in 1880, girls and women danced for religious rituals as well as a solo form performed for entertaining guests within some palaces and surrounding communities. But even these female dance roles were very popular as performed by boys.

Beginning in the 1920s, women and girl dancers began to replace many of the men, taking on both female and many male dramatic roles. And an androgynous style emerged that combined male and female qualities. With unprecedented film footage from the 1930s we will see boys and men performing female and androgynous roles, females performing for rituals and young women performing female and male roles.

Drawing on extensive field research amongst Bali’s centenarian artists, ​this film screening and lecture demonstrates how the process of musical and cultural repatriation can lead in unpredictable and illuminating directions. 

About the Speaker

Ethnomusicologist Edward Herbst is the Director of the Bali 1928 Repatriation Project and author of acclaimed book, Voices in Bali: Energies and Perceptions in Vocal Music and Dance Theatre. Find out more about Bali 1928 here.