Topeng Shakti

Article Bio Works Projects www
additional name:
Cristina Wistari, Desak Suarti, Ni Nyoman Candri
Magic, ritual
Music (Gamelan Music)
Performing Arts (comedy, dance, dance / Kathakali, education, Masks, mime, opera, puppet theatre, shadow theatre)
Asia, Southeast, Europe, Southern
Indonesia, Italy
related artists:
created on:
January 21, 2004
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since December 12, 2005. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
information provided by:


Topeng Shakti

Dance and Gamelan Music performed by Women

The masked dance drama Topeng dates back at least 500 years. This classical form takes its tales from the Babad(Chronicles) of the Balinese Kings. The drama always begins with a group of two full wooden masks (pengelembar)which are archetypes of prime ministers. These characters set the stage for the story, performing pure dance to show their skill as dancers. The actual story itself then begins with the entrance of two servants of the king, Panasar and Wijil, who wear half masks which allow them to speak. They serve as storytellers. Then enters the Dalem (king), a fullfaced refined character wearing a white mask, which represents purity and the perfection which results from the unification of male and female. At this point, the plot evolves differently according to the story which is being told. The bondres comic characters representing the common people appear now. They wear half-masks and articulated masks,which give them great freedom to speak. The bondres are given the liberty to go back and forth from ancient to modern times and to improvise on themes relating to contemporary and social issues. At Roots in Transit the Topeng performance presents the story of The Chinese Queen.
Author: Odin Teatret


Ni Nyoman Candri is a renowned Arja (Balinese classical opera) singer in the role of Condong, the queen’s servant,and is one of the rare female dalang (puppeteer) masters of the Wayang Kulit (shadow theatre), a genre usually reserved for men. Since her childhood Ni Nyoman Candri has learnt classical dance and in particular Baris and Legong Keraton from her father, I Made Kredek. Since 1998 she is part of Topeng Shakti where she excels in the role of Wijil, the king’s servant and storyteller, and of the bondres, the comic characters. Ni Nyoman Candri performs in Indonesia and abroad, and teaches students coming to her from all over the world.
Cristina Wistari was born in Italy and has lived in Bali since 1983. The first theatre discipline she studied was mime.Since 1978 she has travelled extensively throughout Asia researching arts as embodied in ancient traditions. She studied Kathakali, the South Indian dance drama, for two years. On reading Antonin Artaud’s essay on Balinese theatre, she was drawn inevitably to Bali and its rich Hindu culture, complex rituals and metaphysical dance theatre. The study of Topeng, the masked dance drama, was a catalyst for further development. Besides Topeng, Cristina studied Gambuh, a court dance of the 15th century, the most ancient form of Balinese dance drama, and Calonarang, the dance drama of
magic. Under the guidance of I Made Djimat, a master of the classical style, she studied these classical forms for sixteen years. In 1985 she commenced dancing in the temple ceremonies. During the last decade she has devoted herself to the preservation, research and documentation of Gambuh, the most ancient dance drama of Bali and she has edited a book on this classical art (Gambuh, Lontar 2000).


The Chinese Queen

Production / Performance,
A Chinese queen sailed to different countries, selling and buying merchandise. Her skill as a merchant was as renowned as her beauty. One day, just on the seashore of Bali, her ship was damaged and was obliged to stop for several days in the harbour. Dalem Punjungan, a King from West Bali, on seeing her, falls madly in love and asks her to marry him. The Queen, returning his love, accepts, but on one condition: he has to file his teeth. Evil forces are believed to be in the points of the frontal teeth and the only way to eliminate the negative spirits is to file the teeth. Dalem Punjungan agrees and the marriage takes place. All expenses of the big ceremony are paid by the Queen in Chinese coins (Kepeng). This is why, even nowadays, Chinese coins are always used in all Balinese ceremonies. Characters in order of appearance: Topeng Keras (Prime Minister); Topeng Tua (The old advisor of the King); Wijil (King Punjungan’s servant and storyteller. He introduces the King); Topeng Dalam (King Punjungan); Topeng Raja Putri (Chinese Queen); Bondres luh (Queen’s servant); Bondres suab (big mouth); Bondres ulinan (jolly); Bondres keto (stuttering); Bondres gelem (ill-man); Bondres luh (vain woman).


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Roots in Transit IV

Women´s International Theatre Festival and Meeting

(15 January 04 - 25 January 04)


Odin teatret