Enter: resplendent male warriors known as baris enter carrying sharp, pointed spears. They wear embroidered gold and red shields over loose white garb and sit at intervals holding the space. Finally, the costumes parade by. They are not worn but carried above the head by aides in bit parts: the crazed but joyful painted masks of three Barong separated from their shaggy bodies and the grey-haired witch, Rangda, hoisted high on a stick. More special water is spritzed about; a swath of incense is lit, and a high priest sits at the nexus of it all, praying.
‘Ballet is a purely female thing; it is a woman, a garden of beautiful flowers and man is the gardener,’ the impresario George Balanchine reflected to Life Magazine in 1965. Ballet is an art form enmeshed with its history: steps drawn up in the court of Louis XIV remain today; blockbuster ballets like ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘Swan Lake,’ and ‘Giselle’ were choreographed a century ago and gendered roles of prince and princess habitually play out with men lifting and women being lifted en pointe. A ballerina dancing en pointe transcends, she floats but she does not meet her partner on equal footing.