Jathilan is a Javanese folk dance that uses the power of music and dance to channel powerful and sometimes terrifying forces. Led by a spiritual guide and a whip-bearing ringleader, a group of dancers ride woven horses in rhythmic unison until spirits enter them. Once possessed they engage in a range of self-mortification behaviors until safely emerging from their altered state, left with no memory of the event and no lingering ill effects. The film, 'Jathilan: Trance and Possession in Java,' combines footage of a number of Jathilan performances with interviews with dancers, spiritual leaders, anthropologists, and enthusiasts. Multiple interpretations of Jathilan's significance ultimately emerge, from an empirical proof of spiritual presence, to a strategy of community building, to a resistant expression of folk identity. Written by
The terrifying power dance of Java.
Did You Know?
Kasidy - Jathilan Performer
I never experienced real trance myself. But when I performed Jathilan and pretended to be in trance, the audience saw it as a real trance. Actually I was pretending, I just made it up. Not everyone can experience trance.