While in Bali, I saw a film produced in the 1930s by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, a frequent illustrator in the day for The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. In the documentary, the legendary Bali dancer I Marya was pictured performing his unique, seated dance. The smallest movements of his eyes, wrists, fan, and fingertips were fast and refined, conveying the entire arc of the dance story. Another section of the film – which is shown free upon request at the RendezvousDoux Cafe in Ubud – demonstrates how teachers held the wrists of their students, literally applying muscle memory onto the new dancers. Seeing the young girls in Ubud practicing with their teachers was very similar, 80 years later.
An excerpt of Covarrubias’ documentary, “La Isla de Bali,” is available on YouTube: