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The sacred performance traditions of Bali have found their true interpretive champions in Çudamani, an ensemble of musicians and dancers from Pengsekan.

The group will perform 8 p.m. tonight at the Williams Center for the Arts. Tickets for the public cost $22 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

Çudamani also will present a free lecture-demonstration noon today at the Williams Center. The performance residency is supported in part by a grant from the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation of Allentown.

As expressed by these masters of the percussion-based gamelan genre, the mythological gods and heroes of Balinese lore represent an approach to spirituality different from Western religions. Yet, as noted by the Los Angeles Times, the religious impulse of invocation and sound is comparable in intent to a Bach cantata, and brilliant performers, musicians, and dancers alike move with stunning cohesion and ensemble grace as compellingly entertaining as any Western ballet. The result, according to the Times, is “superbly coordinated and compellingly entertaining.”

The gamelan music will feature bronze gongs, chimes, drums, xylophones, and other percussive instruments. The evening’s program will be “OdalanOdalan Bali: An Offering of Music and Dance.” The Balinese Odalanodalan is a temple ceremony that commemorates the beginning of a life. The main function of an odalan, according to Çudamani, is to create and maintain harmony and balance.

“We always offer prayers and offerings before every performance, in Bali as well as on tour, but this production is not a Balinese ceremony,” the ensemble explains. “It is our way of bringing to you the inspiration, beauty, profound spiritual unity, and the enjoyment that we feel during our ceremonies. It is our way of living.”

Considered a national treasure in its native Bali, Çudamani is dedicated to performing and preserving a rich repertoire of centuries-old classical Balinese legong and kebyar dances and instrumental compositions, most notably the rarely heard seven-pitch orchestrations that were once the traditional music of the Balinese court.

Çudamani is led by artistic director I Dewa Putu Berata, assistant artistic director Emiko Saraswati Susilo, and choreographer I Nyoman Cerita. Composers are I Dewa Ketut Alit, I Dewa Putu Berata, I Made Karmawan, and I Dewa Putu Rai, with an opening piece, “Ambient Soundscapes,” choreographed by Wayne Vitale.

Founded in 1997 as an alternative to tourism-oriented groups, Çudamani is a professional company, performing arts school, and community of artists. As part of its work in the community, senior members teach gamelan and dance at no cost to over 100 youth and children ranging in age from 5-18 in afternoon and weekend classes. The organization is one of the very few in Bali that teaches young girls to play gamelan, a realm reserved for men until recently.

In 2001, Çudamani received a grant from the Ford Foundation for its work in preservation, innovation, and education. The ensemble has toured Italy, Greece, and the United States, and has collaborated with international artists such as UA, Kenny Endo, Larry Reed, Andrea Centazzo, Michael Tenzer, Ranee Ramaswamy (Ragamala Music and Dance Theater), and Citresh Das Dance Company. The group will perform at the World EXPO in Aichi, Japan in August.

The nationally recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The Çudamani performance is made possible by a grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program.

The 2004-05 Performance Series at Lafayette is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by the F.M. Kirby Foundation; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, J. Mahlon and Grace Buck Foundation, and Croasdale Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

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