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  • Denisa Mayari

Tari Gandrung: From Horror Stereotypes to TikTok Fame

(Image courtesy of Wonderful Indonesia)


Gandrung is a beloved traditional dance from Banyuwangi, East Java, celebrated for its elegance and deep cultural roots. Originally performed to honor Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and fertility, this dance marks a successful harvest with lively, graceful movements and colorful costumes, making it a key part of Banyuwangi’s cultural heritage. 


In Banyuwangi, the Gandrung, typically performed by female dancers, invites male guests to join in, accompanied by gamelan music. Additionally, the dance blends Javanese and Balinese influences, most evident in the costumes with intricate batik patterns, representing Java, and sizable and ornate headpieces, similar to ones Balinese dancers wear. These influences reflect centuries of cultural exchange between Banyuwangi and Bali, shaped by trade and migration.


Interestingly, the dance has recently taken on a new dimension, thanks to its portrayal in the 2022 horror film "KKN di Desa Penari". In the film, the character Badarawuhi, a supernatural entity who rules over the village, performs the Gandrung dance, adding a chilling twist to this traditional art form. The chilling performance, set in a haunted village, has left a lasting impression on viewers, blending the dance’s elegance with a spine-tingling narrative.


(Image courtesy of KKN di Desa Penari)


Despite these spooky associations, Gandrung has found a fresh wave of popularity on social media, particularly on TikTok. A community of traditional dancers on the app, often dubbed "Tari-Tok," have embraced the platform to showcase Gandrung, mixing traditional elements with modern touches. These performances have resonated with a younger audience, bringing Gandrung into the spotlight once again. The hashtag #TariGandrung has been added to thousands of videos, with dancers adding their own flair to the classic moves, often set to a more contemporary instrumental.


(Image courtesy of Taman Gandrung Banyuwangi)


The renewed interest in Gandrung is also reflected in the fascination with Taman Gandrung Terakota in Banyuwangi. This cultural park, dedicated to preserving and celebrating the Gandrung dance, features 1.000 life-sized terracotta statues of Gandrung dancers. The park’s stunning yet eerie atmosphere, with statues that seem almost lifelike, adds to the dance’s mystical allure. Visitors are often captivated by the beauty and slightly haunting vibe of the park, feeling as though they’ve stepped back in time among ancient dancers.


It’s fascinating to see how many Indonesian traditions, including dances, are linked to mystique, whether through their origins, ties to urban legends, or portrayals in horror films. Surprisingly, these ties don’t diminish their appeal; if anything, they make these dances more fascinating. The recent association of Gandrung with horror has ignited increased curiosity, attracting new audiences to the traditional dance.


The resurgence of interest in Gandrung, driven by its spooky associations and vibrant presence on TikTok, highlights how traditional arts can evolve and captivate modern audiences. This dance's journey from sacred ritual to horror film feature and social media sensation underscores the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of cultural heritage. In this blend of horror and heritage, Gandrung has found a new audience, ensuring that its legacy continues to enchant and inspire.

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