This January, under the leadership of Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Hatch, students are studying in Bali receiving a multidimensional exposure to the Balinese performing arts.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the trip,” says Hatch, who also led students in 2014 to Bali, “is watching students change their definition of what ‘performance’ can mean.”
Hatch notes that one unique feature of Balinese culture is how thoroughly the performing arts are integrated throughout it. “In the U.S., the performing arts are rather compartmentalized in relationship to other institutions. We go to one building for a performance, we worship in another, etc. In Bali, performing arts are much more ingrained into the culture. Religion, art, the environment and even political discourse all meshe together in a vivid and exciting manner.”
The three-week program blends scholarly inquiry into the history and traditions of Balinese performing arts with practice under the tutelage of Balinese master artists. The students are studying at the Mekar Bhuana Conservatory in Depansar, where they are receiving training in Balinese dance, masked performance, gamelan (traditional Javanese and Balinese music), shadow puppetry and mask carving. The course of study culminates with a final performance in which the students will wear traditional costumes and makeup.
The environment at Mekar Bhuana is “incredibly supportive,” says Katerina Nunez ’17, a veteran of the previous Bali program who is attending this year’s program as well.
“One of the most inspiring and interesting aspects of studying the performing arts in Bali was the teaching method implemented in the learning space. To me, the Bali program is so special because it brings together HWS students who have a common interest in the performing arts,” Nunez says.
Jordan Loretz ’17 agrees. “Although students specialize in one type of performance over the course of the trip, everyone is required to do everything — thus, musicians study dance as well as musical performance and vice versa. This makes the Bali cohort very diverse and representative of the Colleges’ dedication to a true liberal arts education.”