Panyembrama is a secular Balinese dance form designed by I Wayan Beratha, and first performed in 1971. Traditional Balinese dances are sacral in nature and thus unsuited for secular performances. That these dances were used for welcoming non-Balinese, and in non-sacral contexts, was a point of controversy in the late 1960s. A secular dance was needed, one which could be used outside of the temple, particularly for tourists and thus maintain the sacredness of the original dances.
PANYEMBRAMA was one of the several dance forms, which rose from this situation, and was intended for non-Balinese (particularly Westerners) audience. I Wayen Beratha, a choreographer with the Kariwitan Conservatory (Indonesian : Konservatori Karawitan who was well-versed in traditional Balinese dance, was tasked by his organisation to create a new secular dance. He combined the most beautiful moves of traditional dances such as LEGONG, CONDONG and PENDET, in order to create what would become PANYEMBRAMA. This basis in traditional has also led to PANYEMBRAMA being classified as a form of classical dance by art critic A. M. Hermin Kusmayati.
Panyembaram was first performed in 1971, at the Pandan Festival. This dance form has been taught at Balinese dance schools and been used at temples in religious ceremonies, as a sort of welcoming dance for the Gods. The name PANYEMBRAMA comes from the Balinese word ‘sambrama’ meaning ‘welcome.’ In lengthy events, the dance is usually performed first, particularly, before a secularised LEGONG DANCE.
The dancers — always young women — come on stage carrying a metal (usually silver or aluminium) dish with incense and flowers in it. These dancers, numbering 2 or more, wear layered clothing, decorated with a golden pattern called PRADA. Around their bodies they wear a KAMBEN (sarong) as well as a tightly wrapped cloth which covers from the chest to the waist. On their heads they wear golden head-dresses and frangipani flowers.
To open the PANYEMBRAMA dance, the performers kneel, as if praying. They make welcoming movements to the guests, accompanied by GAMELAN. Their movements are slow, accentuating the curves of the dancers’ bodies. At the end of the performance, the dancers move in circles, throwing flowers at each other and the audience, with the scents being carried in the air. Unlike some other Balinese dances, PANYEMBRAMA is not intended to convey a story.