The dramatic genre of the horse dance (
jaranan) is part of an age-old Javanese tradition displaying wide local and regional variations. A striking feature of the performances of the majority of horse dance groups is the appearance of trance dancers. These are used as a means of establishing contact with the spirits of the ancestors, who continue to play an important part in the lives of their descendants as moral beacons in the solution of problems and the fulfillment of wishes. As a consequence of the modernization of society in almost every aspect of life, vigorously propagated as it was by the Suharto regime in the period 1966-1998, the trance in horse dancing has been strongly discouraged as an anachronism. This has prompted a search for new ways of preserving this dramatic genre for future generations. The way the administration of Kediri and a number of local horse dance companies set about solving this problem constitutes a dominant theme of this book. To bring the phenomenon of the horse dance in Java into sharper focus, a brief account is given of its history, as well as a description of the great variety of horse dance groups of and a range of aspects of this genre.
Victoria M. Clara van Groenendael (1935) studied cultural anthropology with Professor H.G. Schulte Nordholt at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, and Indonesian and Javanese language at the University of Leiden. Her first field research (1976-1978) was focused on the position of the Central Javanese
dalang (puppeteer) in the rapidly changing society of mainly Solo and Yogyakarta (Clara van Groenendael 1985). Later research concerned various forms of puppet theatre, such as the Chinese glove-puppet play,
po-té-hi (1993), and the Javanese
wayang murwakala (1998) and
wayang gandrung (2000 and 2002). She has further published a bibliography of the wayang (1987) and a bibliography of mainly Javanese and Madurese traditional dramatic genres as a supplement to Th. Pigeaud's
Javaanse volksvertoningen (1995).