Category Archives: Dance and the other arts

Bali on $300 a day: Insider Tour

THIS JUST IN –  last minute chance to go to Bali on an insider tour led by Kathleen Winn.  A friend who went on this tour last year is “wildly enthusiastic” and she lives in Princeton, hence my excuse for putting it up on Princeton Comment.  It’s a last minute chance, if interested contact 

balis below: 
From my friend: I’m sure you recall how wildly enthusiastic I was about my trip last August/September.  A very similar trip is going this year, again with Indonesia expert / private guide ( with no personal profit -only a love of the the country). Several people just had to drop out for medical reasons, opening up their spaces. The trip costs ~$2,700 including local flights (Bali-Flores round trip), the boat trip – all but airfare , which is about $1,100 right now. Most such trips are double or more, without the personal home visits and connections that are part of Kathy Winn’s trip.
What I found most meaningful were Buddhist Hindi and other ceremonies/visits. It brought far greater understanding of people with different traditions, cultures and religions.
Friday, September 1 DEPARTURE
Friday night, at 8:30 PM, we get a free shuttle in Piscataway to JFK airport.
Day 1  Saturday, September 2 
We leave J.F.K. on EVA Airlines at 1:45 AM early Saturday morning, September 2, proceeding directly to Taipei.
DAY 2 Sunday, September 3 KUTA, BALI
We arrive in Taipei at 5:45 AM.  En route we cross the International Date Line and lose a day.  We will change planes before we depart for Bali at 10:15 AM, arriving in Bali at 3:15 PM.
After we go through immigration, we will be met by our guide, Effendy Yassin.  He will take us to the Rani Hotel in Kuta, on the west coast of Bali, where we will check in.  We will find our rooms situated in the middle of gardens and near the ocean.  Relax, swim, walk around, change money.  We may watch an amazing sunset over the ocean from the beach.
DAY 3 Monday, September 4 LABUANBAJO, FLORES
This morning we depart from the hotel at 6 AM  to catch our 8 AM  flight east from Denpasar over Mt. Rinjani, the highest volcano in Indonesia, found on Lombok Island.  Continuing to the east we fly over Mt. Tambora, on Sumbawa Island.  This volcano had consisted of two soaring cones, each more than 13,000 feet, visible from nearly 19 miles at sea.  It last erupted in 1815 discharging more than 1000 feet of cone into the air and causing the deaths of 90,000 people either from its ash or subsequent starvation of all the people on this and neighboring islands.  Throughout the world 1816 was referred to as “the year without summer.”
We arrive in Labuanbajo at 9:15 AM.  It is a coastal town and fishing village in western Flores with a beautiful island filled bay and harbor full of trimarins, canoes, single-hulled sailboats, and inboard motor craft. The Muslim Bugis and Bajo seafarers, from Sulawesi to the north, have settled close to the water and are the fishermen.  In fact this town is named for the ethnic Bajo people since Labuhan means harbor, “Harbor of the Bajo.” They catch large quantities of squid which are salted and sent to Singapore.  The squid are attracted to the lights on top of the nets attached to bagans or off shore movable platforms.  When enough have gathered, the net is dropped.  The Christians live across the main road away from the sea.  These farmers grow rice, manioc (tapioca), corn, oranges, jackfruit and other crops.   During the night the ship will have returned to Labuanbajo where we will be anchored.
After our arrival, we will be taken to the top of the hill outside of Labuanbajo where we will visit Melo Village.  They will welcome us with a ceremony.  Then they will perform the caci or whip dance for us and demonstrate their culture.  You will be able to participate.
We proceed to the harbor where we will meet the crew and board the Tarata, our home for the next six nights.
After lunch on board we will sail to Sabolan Island.  This is a tiny uninhabited island with a white sand beach and underwater coral gardens.  We will spend the afternoon swimming and snorkeling on this beautiful island.   To further your enjoyment of the trip, if there is time today, there will be a lecture on a subject which pertains to Indonesian culture, history or natural history.
DAY 4 Tuesday, September 5   RIUNG VILLAGE, FLORES
During the night we will sail east along the north coast of Flores, following its backbone which is an astounding string of active and extinct volcanoes along its length.  Discovered by the Portuguese explorers in 1512, who named it Capo de Flores or Cape of Flowers, deep ravines, rugged valleys and thick tropical forests have separated population groups and created different and distinctive cultures on this island.  Because of the Portuguese, 85% of the population is Catholic and the church dominates every tiny village.  Only in the ports are there any number of Muslims.  The Dutch eventually took over this island from the Portuguese in the 16th century when Indonesia became a Dutch colony.  This island exhibits a rich and varied folklore expressed through magical dances, music and songs.
We will spend the morning visiting the fishing village of Riung.  The people are a mix of Muslim Bugis and Bajau fishermen, originally from Sulawesi, and Bajawanese Roman Catholic farmers originally animists from the mountains.  The farmers export copra, shallots, coconuts, and kapok.  The fishermen export trochus shells, trepang (sea cucumbers), dried fish, yellowtail and skipjack tuna.  The women weave and embroider sarongs with yellow and red flowers on a blue-black background.  We will pay a visit to the nuns at the local orphanage school to observe the children and take them school supplies.
In the afternoon we will spend the rest of the day enjoying water sports on the white sand beach of one of the deserted islands, part of the Pulau Tujuhbelas (Seventeen Islands) National Reserve.  At night we will continue sailing east to Maumere.
DAY 5  Wednesday, September 6 MAUMERE, FLORES
This morning we will spend time on Pulau Besar Island swimming and snorkeling.  We continue east sailing the Flores Sea along the north coast while we have lunch on board.  We will arrive in the largest town in Eastern Flores, Maumere, which was badly damaged by an earthquake in December, 1992.  We first top in the busy market to learn about different fruit and vegetables with which we may not be familiar.  We will take some time to visit the busy market.  Then by van we will drive up int he mountains and visit Watublapi, a local village where we will see traditional dancing and customs including a demonstration of the complete process of making ikat (tie dyed) cloth beginning by making the thread from cotton, producing natural dyes, dying the thread, tying grass around the stretched thread to resist the dye, and the rest of the many steps to prepare the finished cloth.  We will return to the ship.
DAY 6  Thursday, September 7  MAUMERE, MT. KELIMUTU, FLORES
 After breakfast we will disembark at 5 AM  and board a bus for a morning excursion south to the 5,544 ft. volcanic lakes at Mt. Kelimutu, the most fantastic sight in Nusa Tenggara if not all of Indonesia.  The drive is through attractive scenery with spectacular mountain terrain, deep gorges, and rice terraces.  Numerous picturesque villages along the way reflect the natural beauty of Flores.  Mt. Kelimutu is famous for its three colored crater lakes, black, turquoise, and emerald green, colored by the chemicals in the rock.  These craters are spectacular and offer a fitting focus to our day’s journey.  There is an unforgettable view from the summit and we may hike along the rim.
After lunch at Ecolodge we will proceed to Moni village to to meet the local people and observe their lifestyles.  The constant sound of running water through rice fields, fantastic views of surrounding volcanoes, and in the far distance view of the ocean all give this village a tranquil feeling.  Here we will see a dance performance.
After lunch we will go to a Wologai traditional house belonging to the Lio tribe.  We will finish our excursion at Ropa fishing village where we will board ship, have dinner and set sail to the west.
DAY 7 Friday, September 8 RIUNG, FLORES
We will stop by Riung Island for swimming and snorkeling before we head west across the Flores Sea where we are likely to see whales, dolphins, schools of tuna, and flying fish.  Stopping at an island, we will be able to swim and snorkel.  Back on board, there will be lectures on culture and natural history before dinner.  We will watch the nightly departure of the Flying Foxes or fruit bats which fly over the ship by the thousands on their way from their day time resting place to the orchards of Flores.
This morning we will arrive at Komodo National Park.  Komodo’s big attraction is the giant lizard also known as the Komodo Dragon, the largest monitor lizard in the world.  This lizard may grow to 12 feet long.  The Komodo area is the original and only habitat in the world of this giant prehistoric reptile.  Komodo, Rinca and other neighboring islands are now a National Park protecting this prehistoric species.  We will take a mile hike through the park observing the trails of the Komodo Dragons and we see their lairs in the banks of the dry stream bed.  A park ranger will escort us across the island to a protected viewing point in the National Park where we can watch the dragons at very close range.  This island is also the home of other wildlife such as wild deer, feral pigs, wild banteng bulls, the sulfur crested cockatoos, noisy friar birds, and the mound building megapode birds.  Wild orchids and staghorn ferns as well as other wild flowers hang from trees.  These islands are made of limestone and are gradually subsiding into the sea.  The islands only receive 16-20 inches of rain a year resulting in the islands being covered with dry savannah and lontar palm trees.  On the beach you will have the opportunity to buy white, pink, yellow and black pearls which are cultured nearby at unbelievably cheap prices .
There is only one village on Komodo Island.  The ancestors of the inhabitants (who were criminals on the mainland of Sumbawa) were exiled by the former Sultan of Bima.  They live close to the sea and make their living fishing for squid from their small outrigger boats.  They fish at night attracting the squid with the twinkling lights on their boats.
 We will spend the rest of the afternoon swimming and snorkeling off the “pink beach,” so named because of the red coral which has colored the white sand.  The diving and snorkeling in Komodo is world class with numerous multicolored fish in water clear as glass.   We will sail to the north of the small fishing village where we may see at dusk thousands of fruit bats or flying foxes wake up after spending the day hanging upside down as they sleep on the mangrove trees and fly across the water to the mainland.
Tonight we will have a farewell party on the beach under the black star-filled sky.  The crew will set up a fire of driftwood and will grill sate as part of our dinner.  Music and lights will be provided by means of a battery .
DAY 9 Sunday, September 10 CANDI DASA, BALI
We will visit the Batu Cermin cave where the stalactites and stalagmites unite into huge pillars.  The inhabitants of Labuan Bajo hid in these caves from Portuguese and Dutch invaders.  Afterwards we can stroll and explore Labuan Bajo.
Our plane to Bali departs at 3:25 PM and arrives at 4:15 PM.  Our guide Alit will meet us at the airport.
We will proceed to southeast Bali to Puri Bagus Candi Dasa, a luxurious resort on the ocean.  On the way to the Karangasem Kingdom we will see Kusamba, a fishing village with its black volcanic sand, originally the principal port for the kingdom of Klungkung.  We will pass the area devastated by the1963 eruption of Mt. Gunung.  Huge boulders dot the fields.  Rubble has been carted off for building purposes.  Large stones form the foundations for rice terraces.  But volcanic eruptions enrich the soil with minerals resulting in very fertile soil so that they farmers my put in three crops a year.
Puri Bagus Candi Dasa is another beautiful resort and your bungalow is in the middle of gardens, facing the ocean.  We will have dinner in the open air dining room.
DAY 10 Monday, September 11     CANDI DASA, BALI
This morning we may swim or take a ride out to the huge rocks looming out of the ocean in one of the colorful outrigger fishing boats with eyes painted on their hulls.
We start our tour with a short drive to the Ujung Water Palace on the coast which was destroyed by the 1963 earthquake but has since been rebuilt.  The building sits like a pearl in the middle of a pool surrounded by statues.
The Amlapura Palace, the Puri Kanginan, was the seat of the ruling branch of the dynasty since around the beginning of the 18th century.  The architecture is European, Chinese and Balinese.  We will tour the palace and its surrounding buildings.
One of the prettiest places in Bali is Tirta Ganga (Water of the Ganges).  Built by the last raja of Karangasem, the water palace is a series of pools down the hillside, the water spewed from one pool to another from the mouths of carved animals.  We will walk through this spectacular and lovely park-like area.   
 In the 16th century there was a migration of Hindu Majapahit refugees from east Java, escaping the domination of the Muslims.  The people who populated Bali before this migration are said to be the residents of the Tenganan Bali Aga Village.  This village is famous for its rare and exquisite double ikat cloth called kain gerinsing  which means that both the woof and warp are tie-died to make the designs.  This cloth is said to have magical qualities.  Girls dance one of the most ancient ceremonial dances and men play the rare gamelon selanding, the iron-keyed metalophones.  The lontar palm books which contain the customary and ritual law were said to have been bestowed by the Hindu god Indra.
Near to the hotel is a chocolate factory.  They produce the dark chocolate and other flavored dark chocolate. They also produce coconut palm syrup, tropical maple syrup, sunblock, skin products etc.
During the afternoon you may swim, snorkel or take a boat ride or just relax at the hotel.  We may go to a local restaurant for dinner and a dance performance.
DAY 11  Tuesday, September 12  LOVINA, BALI
We leave Candi Dasa this morning.  As we drive along the coast we will see off shore the island of Nusa Penida.  Facing it is Goa Lawah Bat Cave Temple.  It is home to thousands of bats but the depth of the cave is unknown since it’s taboo to venture too deeply.
We will stop at what remains of the palace of the Klungkung Kingdom after the Dutch burned it in 1908.  Although the smallest of Bali’s kingdoms, Klungkung was the greatest.  The rajahs (or kings) of all the other kingdoms gave homage to the Raja of Klungkung in word, if not in action.  The royal family was probably directly descended from the powerful 13th century Majapahit civilization of East Java.  Until its fall to the Dutch in 1908, the palace remained the island’s political and cultural nucleus.  Only two buildings remain after the Dutch assault, the Bale Kambang, or floating pavilion, and the Kerta Gosa or Hall of Justice.  The ceiling of this building is painted in the Kamasan style of painting from the Golden Age of traditional Balinese style named after the village of Kamasan near Klungkung. The Hall of Justice ceiling displays nine layers of panels, most of them a story, Bima Swarga, from the Mahabharata, the Hindu epic, in which the Pandawa brother Bima goes to the underworld to rescue his parents.  On the way he witnesses the tortures suffered by those who sin.  He battles demons and gets to heaven in quest of the elixir of immortality.  On the palace grounds is a museum which we will visit.
We will drive up Mt. Agung, a 10,300 ft. volcano, first stopping at Putung where we are able to view Padang Bai, one of Bali’s few natural harbors and the spot to catch ferries to points east.  In this same area is the Sibetan Salak Fruit Plantation.  High on Mt. Agung is Besakih, the mother temple, the most important temple in Bali, dating from before the 11th century.  In 1963, during the Eka Dasa Rudra ceremony which is held only once every 100 years, Mt. Agung erupted killing 1600 people and leaving 86,000 people homeless.  Besakih temple was spared. This volcano had not erupted since 1350 AD.  The temples are dedicated to the Hindu gods Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
Next we ascend the 5,633 ft. Mt. Batur volcano for lunch on the edge of the crater lake, Danau Batur, at Penelokan.  This caldera is 8.5 miles across.  We are able to see the steam coming out of the lava flows on the side of the volcano which last erupted in 2000, shooting ash 300 meters above the crater.  Another Bali Aga village is on the far side of the crater lake.  These people leave their dead out to be eaten by wildlife.
  We continue north over the volcano and we descend through mist and casuarina trees to the north shore, the site of the old Dutch capital of Singaraja.  The east-west string of volcanoes divides Bali resulting in separate cultures north and south.  Our luxurious resort hotel is Puri Bagus Lovina, situated on a black volcanic beach facing the Bali Sea.  Your individual cottage is surrounded by lovely gardens.   We will have dinner outdoors under the moon after a swim in the sparkling blue pool which seems to touch the sea.
DAY 12  Wednesday, September 13 LOVINA, BALI
This morning there is an opportunity to swim, to get a massage or to take a boat ride out into the ocean to see the dolphins before we begin our tour of the north shore area.  The northern temples are more baroque than southern Bali.  The land is dryer with less wet rice paddy.  Cloves and coffee are grown in the north. We move on to Singaraja.  Singaraja was formerly a royal court center, then the center of Dutch commerce and administration in Bali and major port before it silted in.  Old Dutch houses line the shore at the Old Harbor. The city has an extensive Muslim and Chinese quarter.  We will tour the open air Buleleng Market in Singaraja where you will learn the names of unusual fruits and vegetables.  Then we will visit the Gedong Kirtya Museum, founded by the Dutch in 1928, in order to preserve its extensive collection of 3,000 lontar palm leaf books as well as tour the palace which is nearby.
We next visit  the Pertenunam Berdikari Hand Woven Cloth Factory which specializes in beautiful replicas of antique textiles.  We will watch thread being spun and cloth being woven.
We will stop at the Yuddha Mandalatama independence monument, then on to a Chinese temple, one of the few in Bali.  From there we will go to Bukit Suci, the old Chinese cemetery.
A short distance away is the Buddhist temple, the Brahma Arama Vihara, which we will visit after lunch.  This temple is the residence of Bali’s only Buddhist monk and it plays a central role in Buddhist religious life and education. On it’s upper terrace there is a small replica of Borobudur, the world’s biggest Buddhist monument in Central Java.
This afternoon you may swim in the pool, or snorkel in the ocean, get a massage, or read and relax.  You will have another opportunity to buy pearls.  Again, we will have dinner under the moon.
DAY 13  Thursday, September 14  UBUD, BALI
This morning we head south across the mountains of Bali.  We will drive south a short distance where we will arrive at Gitgit Falls.  We will hike down a mystical ravine into the jungle where we arrive at a spectacular waterfall in the midst of lush vegetation.  Passing through forests of cloves and mandarin oranges, we will cross cross the extinct volcanos in the middle of the island, passing the crater lakes of BratanBuyan and Tamblingan.  We will have lunch along the way.
We will stop at a coffee plantation as we descend the mountains where you can sample different kinds of coffee locally grown as well as see different kinds of plants such as ginger and the elusive civit cat.
On the way back to Ubud we will first stop at Mambal Village, where we will visit our guide Alit’s family compound.  During this private visit some of his extensive family of 50 people will welcome us and explain family life, religious observances, and relationships.
We continue to Pertiwi Bungalows in Ubud.  This resort is another beautiful place, peaceful and quiet although it is in town.  We will find our rooms situated in the middle of gardens.  Ubud is the center of painting in Bali, close to other art and craft centers such as wood and stone carving, silver and gold jewelry.  Relax, swim, walk around, change money, and shop.
Tonight we see the Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppets) at 7:30 PM at Pondok Bambu on Monkey Forest Road.
Day 14 Friday, September 15 UBUD, BALI
This morning we go to the Tampaksiring area which has a long history.  We will explore the Hindu temple of Tirta Empul Holy Spring.  This spring is still most sacred to Gianyar Regency.  It is here that the Barong masks were bathed.  It is said that this spring was created by the Hindu goddess Indra who pierced the earth here to obtain the elixir of immortality.  Many ancient monuments are found here.
At Gunung Kawi, Valley of the Kings, massive commemorative monuments to 11th century rajahs and ranis (kings and queens) are hewn into the cliffs on both sides of the river.
From there we will be guests at Tampaksiring Village, a typical Balinese village.  We will visit a kindergarten and a school under the patronage of the Village Children Association.  We will walk through the village back streets and be welcomed by a typical Balinese family offering us lunch in their family compound.  We will learn how to weave delicate offerings from young banana leaves from a Brahmin woman, Ida Ayu, the champion artist of Bali.  After lunch we will visit the family garden and orchards, introducing us to typical tropical plants.
This evening we see the Kecak Fire and Trance Dance at the Pura Dalem Ubud at 7:30 PM.  During the Kecak Dance, 100 men provide background chanting while dancers depict the Ramayana story on the temple grounds.  During the Trance Dance, a man goes into a trance while riding on a hobby horse and dances with his bare feet on burning coals of coconut husks.  A priest is called to bring him out of his trance.  Amazingly, his feet are unburned.
Day 15 Saturday, September 16 UBUD, BALI
We again return to the Tampaksiring area where we will have lunch in a scenic restaurant which overlooks a verdant gorge.  After lunch we visit the 11th century Goa Gajah Elephant Cave which has as its entrance a fanged mouth. This appears to be an earth spirit clawing its way out of the cosmic mountain which is populated by a curious and often comical array of animals and phantoms.  This was one of Bali’s principal Buddhist sanctuaries.  In the caves are statues of the Hindu god, Ganesha, Shiva’s son, and linggas from the 8th to the 14th centuries.  A pleasant walk down into the adjacent gorge with its clear and rushing stream and lush vegetation leads us to an ancient 8th century Buddhist site.
In the same area, Pejeng has at least 40 sites of ancient relics making it one of Indonesia’s richest archeological zones.  The Pejeng Moon, dating from 300 BC, is thought to be the largest kettle drum cast in one piece similar to those made by the Dongsonculture of Vietnam.  The Pejeng Temple Museum houses numerous displays from paleolithic stone tools through the pre-Hindu Bronze Age to the golden era of Balinese Hindu-Buddhism and beyond.
We will have lunch at a restaurant overlooking a breathtaking gorge before we go to the Bali Safari and Marine Park for a spectacular show called Bali Agung (Great Bali).  This show is an historical tale about the events in Bali between 1179-1181.  It is about the great king Sri Jaya Pangus who took a Chinese wife, Kang Ching Wei.  As she was barren, he secretly had a child by Dewi Danu, the goddess of the lake.  When she found out he was married already, she turned both the king and his wife into stone pillars.  The Safari ride takes us through wilderness so that we may see animals which are not found in any other country such as the babi rusa.  Along with an aquarium, there are animal shows.
Tonight at 7 P.M. at the Arma Museum, we will see the Wayang Wong dance performance.
Day 16 Sunday, September 17  UBUD, BALI
We leave early this morning to see the Barong and Keris Dance in Batubulan.  The story is an episode from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.  This dance is a confrontation between the wonderful Barong, a sort of lion symbolizing good, along with his buddy the monkey, and Rangda the witch symbolizing evil.  Trying to defend the Barong, men in a trance turn their kris, or wavy knives, on themselves under Rangda’s spell but protected by the Barong and in a trance, they are unable to pierce their skin.  Nearby we will visit the Taman Burung Bird Park.  This park has beautiful gardens and exotic birds from all part of Indonesia.  Next door, the Reptile Parkhas a variety of exotic reptiles including monitor lizards displayed in their habitat.   We will have lunch in a nearby restaurant.
After lunch we will take a stroll in the the Monkey Forest at the end of the road.  At the bottom of a ravine under a huge banyan tree there are pools and a small temple in addition to the larger temple along the path.  Guard well your belongings and sun glasses since the monkeys are fast.
This is a free day to shop, swim, explore.  You may want to go to the art museums in Ubud:  Antonio Blanco Gallery, The Neka Museums, Komaneka Gallery , Seniwati Gallery, Hans Snell Gallery, Puri Lukisan Museum, Lempad Gallery, Rhudana Art Museum and Agung Rai Museum.
This evening at 7:30 PM there is a performance of the Legong of the Mahabharata at the Ubud Palace.
Day 17 Monday, September 18 TAIPEI, TAIWAN
This morning will be your last chance to shop, get a message, manicure, pedicure, and pack or visit the Monkey Forest if you haven’t gone yet.
We will be picked up after lunch at our hotel and taken to the airport for our 4:20 PM departure to Taipei, arriving at 9:35 PM.  We pick up vouchers for the hotel at the EVA Airlines desk.  Overnight is in the CHUTO Hotel paid for by EVA Airlines, confirmation #15002624.
Day 18   Tuesday, September 19  JFK AIRPORT, N.Y. USA
This morning we will be taken by van to the airport to catch our flight from Taipei which leaves at 7:50 AM.  We will gain a day as we cross the International Date Line and arrive at JFK Airport at 10:45 AM.  A shuttle bus will take us to Piscataway.
Since our flight departs Taipei 7:05 PM, we have the whole day to enjoy activities in Taipei.  The National Palace Museum is a great attraction housing countless treasures which were carried away from Mainland China by Chiang Kai-shek.
The most famous of Taipei’s  temples is  Lung Shan or Dragon Mountain Temple, built in the early 1700s, to honor the island’s deities, Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy, and Ma Tsu, the goddess of the sea.  The temple is renowned for its fine stone sculpture, wood carvings and bronze work.
Kong Miao, the Confucius temple, is a tranquil place, more peaceful than other temples.  It honors the man who influenced Chinese philosophy for thousands of years.
The Bao-an Temple, is a gaudy monument to traditional Taoist or Chinese folk religion.
Lin An Tai Homestead is an example of a traditional Chinese home and garden.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a massive monument to the late president.
The Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine is dedicated to the heroes of China’s wars.
Snake Alley has stacks of cages filed with deadly hissing snakes good for potency, as well as herbal shops, tattoo parlors, fresh fruit stalls and hawkers of baubles and bangles..  
Our departure from Taipei is at 7:05 PM  for our flight back to the USA.   We will cross the International Date Line and gain a day, arriving at J.F.K. Airport at 10:05 P.M. where we will go through customs.  A free shuttle van will take us to Piscataway.
All scheduled events are subject to change depending upon the situation.  For example, there are many festivals in Bali during the summer or dry season including spectacular funerals.  If we have the opportunity to experience this kind of special event, we will alter the itinerary rather than do what was originally planned.  In addition, inter-island flight schedules are subject to change.

Leni Morante: Turning the Page

Leni Morante at work

Looking back can be so much fun, especially when your past can encourage someone else’s future. Léni Paquet-Morante,  an artist who has kept touch with me over several decades, called with her latest news. I took vicarious joy in what she is doing now.

Morante had been busy with raising three children, volunteering in their schools, rehabbing an historic house, and supporting the successful career of her sculptor husband, G. Frederick Morante. In 1984 they met at the Johnson Atelier,  where she did bronze, copper, and clay sculpture. I wrote about her husband’s work for U.S. 1 Newspaper in the late ’80s. His Daedulus remains one of my favorite pieces, and his ‘Relative’  is one of the large bronzes that J. Seward Johnson commissioned for Grounds for Sculpture.

Thirty years later (can it really be that long ago?) I am retired, Fred is on the staff at the Digital Atelier, and Leni has turned the page in her career. With her children grown, she carved out a space next to the kitchen for her studio and declared independence from cooking dinner.

morante Untitled-Rosemont-061017-30x30-for-website580
Leni Morante: June 11, 2017 In 2017, acrylic on linen, Untitled: Rosemont – 30 x 30

Leni has a solo show opening Wednesday, July 5, at Princeton University’s 113 Dickinson Hall, called “Atmosphere, Place an Time,” described as “paintings that represent familiar local landscapes but which also hint at something more complex.” Best of all, she has an artist residency award at the Lacawac Field Sanctuary in Lake Ariel, PA, and will have two weeks of focused studio and plein-air work next October.

I smiled and smiled when Leni spoke of being recognized with a two-week residency because in 1980 — at almost exactly the same point in my career, I had had a similar opportunity. I landed an NEA Fellowship to a dance critics workshop at the American Dance Festival at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Along with a dozen journalist from around the country, I took movement classes, saw concerts, wrote reviews, and was totally immersed in dance.

It was triply sweet.

b at adf cropped
Barbara Figge at ADF 1960
  • I could leave family cares behind for three weeks.
  • It was my second visit to ADF: 20 years before I had gone to ADF when it was at Connecticut College. That summer persuaded me not to a pursue a dance career. Now, three children later, struggling to make my mark as a journalist, I could go back to ADF as a working dance critic.
  • I returned to my ‘stomping ground.” ADF had moved to my alma mater, Duke University.
American Dance Festival 1980, Duke University. Student learning how to do a “Slow Walk” with choreograher Kei Takei

So, yes, I can truly rejoice with Leni Morante. She is using every available minute to paint. Right now she has a day job, so she paints on weekends, but in October — I smile and encourage her painting sabbatical. Meanwhile, with vicarious joy, I will admire her work.

 “Atmosphere, Place, and Time,” paintings by Léni Paquet-Morante, will be on view starting Wednesday, July 5, at 113 Dickinson Hall. This gallery, curated by Dana Lichtstrahl, is sponsored by Princeton University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A “meet the artist” reception is Friday, July 14, noon to 2 p.m. Her home-based studio is in Hamilton, NJ. Her portfolio since 1984 includes painting, bronze,copper, and clay sculpture, some of which is represented in NJ corporate collections, private collections locally and internationally, and as public art. A full CV and other works can be seen on her website Requests to meet the artist and/or for additional image files can be made through or cell 609-610- 3631.

Ask the button experts on Saturday


fall show second photo - Young button collector Elena IbanezSomething fun to do on Saturday — bring your grandmother’s button box to the New Jersey State Button Society (NJSBS) show and sale on Saturday, May 13, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s at the Union Fire Company hall, 1396 River Road (Route 29), Titusville, NJ 08560, where there is plenty of free parking.  All are welcome; admission is $2 for adults, free for juniors to age 17.

Here’s another Princeton Comment post about buttons

The Union Fire Company, is at  1396 River Road (at the intersection of Route 29 and Park Lake Avenue in Titusville), opposite the Delaware River and D&R Canal State Park (with easy access to the canal park), a half mile north of Washington Crossing State Park in Hopewell Township, and some five miles south of Lambertville and New Hope, PA. There is plenty of free parking.

In this article in the Hopewell Express,  Carol Meszaros checks out a novice collector’s button jar. What treasures do you have in yours?




Pride and Prejudice review, illustrated

Here is my review of Douglas Martin’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 26, but with the addition of the excellent photos by Leighton Chen.  

e reject
From left: Bingley, Elizabeth, Darcy, Collins, Lady Catherine, Caroline

Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” is set in 1813 Regency England, where passions smolder under the veneer of a determinedly genteel society. As choreographer/librettist Douglas Martin and his team translate that novel, they hit ballet’s sweet spot. Gentility is, after all, basic to classical ballet.

This ground-breaking American Repertory Ballet production, premiered to a packed McCarter Theater on April 21, is a Douglas Martin triumph. No longer do I want to see the movie. Each character portrayed by the dancers is etched in my mind.

Every element of dance theater — character-based movement, mime, juxtapositions, props, exquisitely beautiful designs by A. Christina Gianinni, music played by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, even a surround-sound score of horses’ hooves and birds singing — helps to tell the story.

With no program synopsis, it helps to know the novel that chronicles the unfolding romance involving the witty and judgmental Elizabeth Bennet and the rich and aloof Fitzwilliam Darcy, though some characters are easy to pick out on stage.

Ballet mistress Mary Barton, wonderful as Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, points to the ring finger of any single man in sight and inserts her dithery head-shaking everywhere she shouldn’t.angry mrs b

Kathleen Moore Tovar, formerly a principal with American Ballet Theater, also shows the young’uns how. As Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine, she cuts a skirt-swishing officious swathe, punctuating her snobbish opinions by up-jerking her knee.

best lady c

Aldeir Montero, new to the company, is obviously Bingley, Darcy’s genial friend. With his every lunge and leap, opening himself to the audience, he exudes friendliness, in contrast to Mattia Pallozzi, who plays Darcy.

e reject
from left: Bingham, Elizabeth, Darcy, Collins, Lady Catherine, Caroline 

At the ball, contemptuously looking over his shoulder, Darcy clings to himself, with one Napoleonic arm in front, the other in back.

d at ball
Darcy stands at the side. Center: Jane and Bingham. 


Austap Kymko, as the black-clad unctuous clergyman Collins, oozes himself from one hilarious misstep to another

e and collins but smooths out some of the clumsiness after he marries Elizabeth’s dear friend Charlotte (Shaye Firer).

e visit collins and laugh while caroline horrified
Austap Kymko with, from left, Charlotte (Shaye Firer) and Elizabeth (Monica Giragosian)

Gentility does not always prevail. When giddy youngest sister Lydia Bennet (Nanako Yamamoto) runs off with handsome seducer Wickham (Jacopo Jannelli) their bawdy sex scene rips off the veil of decorum and suddenly we seem to be looking at contemporary dance.

lydia and w
Wickham (Jacopo Jannelli) and Lydia Bennet (Nanako Yamamoto)

When Elizabeth (evocatively danced by Monica Giragosian) refuses Collins, the pragmatic Charlotte literally jumps on his back to claim him.

Mime? Throughout, and often extended into dance. When Elizabeth questions Charlotte about marrying Collins, the friends circle and touch their hands to the brows, then extend their arms out straight, question, answer, question, answer.

Juxtapositions enable insights.

e vision of wickham
A vision juxtaposition: Elizabeth reads a letter from Darcy about how he paid off Wickham before, and this scene is visioned in the background.

Charlotte, in a not-so-good marriage, parallels the movement of the eldest Bennet sister, Jane (Lily Saito), who has been moping in a house on the other side of the stage, waiting for a suitor who does not arrive.

lady teapot
Kathleen Moore Tovar, as Lady Catherine, attempts to kick away any attempts to pour her tea.

And an incident with a prop, a teapot, shrinks a storyline when Elizabeth outwits Lady Catherine, who has determined that Elizabeth will not be the one to pour her tea.

Scenic projections and costumes were beyond splendid. One that helped the story line was the headpiece of Caroline Bingley, which made a tall dancer (newcomer Erikka Reenstierna-Cates) an even taller and more formidable opponent to the success of the Bennet women.

caroline bingley and darcy.jpg
Erikka Reenstierna-Cates as Caroline Bingley, has designs on Darcy (Mattia Pallozzi).

There is much excellent dancing in this 140-minute ballet — lots of women on stage at one time, and many chances for men to do double turns and land on one knee.

Music was by composers that were Austen’s favorites (U.S. 1, April 19). Each worked well for that particular dance and was vibrantly played by the PSO, directed by John Devlin. They did not build to the kind of climax that comes with Tchaikovsky ballets, but at moments of high emotion Martin inserted duets by Schubert or Mendelssohn, played by pianist Jonathan Benjamin with either cellist Michael Katz or violinist Grace Park.

The dramatic climax comes, of course, when Jane and Elizabeth get their men. Jane’s longed-for pas de deux with Bingley is simple joy — quick quivering beats with gentle lifts and expansive arabesques.jane dance caption

Elizabeth, in contrast, has spent most of the evening rejecting Darcy. Conflicted, he rarely offers open gestures and his first proposal is, literally, backhanded. With his back to the audience he twists himself into saying, in tightly gripped movement, that he loves her in spite of himself. She flounces off. Then, when she is devastated by the Wickham scandal, Darcy signals his desire to help with an expressive leg movement — an open rond de jambe — and sets out to fix the situation.

e and himUpon his return, as she stretches arms-wide in longing, he catches her in mid air, and she curls her head on his shoulder in delight. Again, she stretches to the nth, and curls around him. best end.jpg

The once haughty Darcy lies down behind her, his head by her knee, in an act of obeisance, and the audience erupts in applause.

(Addendum: In this video of a rehearsal, the first bit is Elizabeth dancing with the dastardly but charming Wickham. In the second, she dances with Darcy after she loves him. In the fourth scene Caroline obnoxiously separates Elizabeth from Darcy.)


Add new comment

Douglas Martin’s Triumph

father with ticket

Rarely do I venture out of retirement to write a dance review, but a gaping hole needed to be filled. American Repertory Ballet premiered a full-length ballet about the classic novel “Pride and Prejudice,” and the arts editor of U.S. 1 Newspaper, Dan Aubrey, said “We need to review this” so here it is. 

If given more space, I would more strongly emphasize that if you like to know what is going on, you need to study the book carefully. So much happens between so many people that it’s hard to follow. I am not a student of Austen, had not paid attention to any of the pre-event publicity, and barely had time to scan SparkNotes and it wasn’t enough. I’d have done better looking at the pictures, on ARB’s Facebook page, of the characters in costume — as pictured above, the Bennett family in the second scene, Mr. Bennet brandishing the invitation to the ball. In the first scene he visited Bingley and Darcy to obtain it. You’d have been quite puzzled by that scene if you didn’t know the story.

Also hard to fit in the assigned space — the real joy of watching these dancers liberated from tape by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. The production values were fabulous.

For a similar opinion, here is Robert Johnson’s review. 


Listening to the Liturgical Year

woodwinds brass and Hyosang and part choir
Hyosang Park directs the combined choirs and a chamber ensemble at PrincetonUMC

In a NYT article, Choral Music is Slow Food for the Soul, composer Nico Muhly has wise observations about how “the choral tradition operated in a series of interlocking cycles based on the liturgical year, with the music and the musicians playing a role in a larger drama.” Rather than expecting applause, church choir singing is  “meant for worship…to be heard in a state of quiet meditation.. to guide the mind out of the building into unseen heights and depths.”

Muhly’s essay is meant to be a paean to Andrew Gant’s book O Sing Unto the Lord: A History of English Church MusicFor me, it’s an affirmation of how — week after week, sitting in a church pew, listening to the Princeton United Methodist Church’s Chancel Choir — opens up my spiritual horizons. I am also inspired by the special music offered during Holy Week.  This year Hyosang Park directs Anton Bruckner’s Requiem on Good Friday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m.,

As Muhly points out, live concerts of liturgical music follow the calendar.  He finds himself “looking forward to a work’s annual visits as I would the arrival of a long-distant friend.”

Other notable choral concerts of the season — the Brahms Requiem by the Voices chorale on April 8, the Princeton Theological Seminary Choir on April 22, the Bulgarian State Women’s Choir on April 17.

Choristers — and attentive listeners — will agree with Muhly, that the liturgical tradition of choral music brings  “sharp pangs of nostalgia, followed by a sense of gratitude that this tradition has been such an important part of my musical world.”

FYI: At Princeton United Methodist Church, the Chancel Choir, directed by Hyosang Park, sings at the 11 a.m. worship service. Tom Shelton directs the Youth Choir (at 9:30 a.m. on first Sundays) and the Children’s Choir (at 9:30 a.m. on second Sundays). The Handbell Choir, directed by Park, plays at both services on third Sundays, and a contemporary ensemble plays at both times on fourth Sundays. Everyone’s welcome to — just listen. 

Not a New York State of Mind

Image from Columbia Journalism Review post “Beyond the Parachute: Newsrooms rethink centralized model” Feb 26, 2017, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky

Geographic diversity is connected to something crucial re what journalists need: audience trust in their work. The Columbia Journalism Review takes a hard look at how coastal newsrooms ignore middle america in this article.

When reporters “parachute in” to cover a story, they are likely to miss the nuances.

“Often people outside of these major city bubbles see themselves depicted in print and on television in a sensationalized way, without any nuance,” says a journalist who lives in South Carolina.“The thought is ‘well, if they’re getting depictions of us wrong, what else are they getting wrong?’

We in Princeton recognize that everybody thinks New York is better.Where do we go when we are really sick? What newspaper do we need when we really want the truth? Here is the Saul Steinberg cartoon about that self-effacing city, followed by two journal items inveighing against New York-centric viewpoints.

Saul Steinberg “Ninth Avenue” cover for the New Yorker, March 29, 1976

 Journal item #1 : I lived outside the New York sphere when I worked as a freelance dance writer in Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh. For dance critics, even those big cities are considered boondocks.  A New York critic’s move to Philadelphia drew condolence letters.

To survive, vampires need blood; dance critics need to see and review dance, and New York is the best place to do it.

Back then, to qualify as a voting member of the Dance Critics Association, you had to have had a review published in a print newspaper during the previous year. Features (advance stories based on a critic’s experience with previous performances) didn’t count.

Fine for New Yorkers and big city papers, but in the boondocks, few newspapers would print reviews. I brought this up so often that I got to be known, somewhat affectionately, as the “lady from Philadelphia” even when I lived in Pittsburgh.

Journal item #2: Reporters treasure good sources. Reporters from small papers — from areas unknown to the “big city guys” — particularly treasure sources that respond with the same attention and respect that they might give to a Washington Post or New York Times reporter.

How I ran across this CJR story was because I follow the path of a former assistant managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, Richard Tofel, who always made himself available when I was a reporter at U.S. 1 Newspaper. (We weren’t a boondocks paper — we delivered to the Dow Jones building on Route 1 North, but it was still gratifying to always get a return call.)

Tofel is now president of the Pulitzer Prize-wining nonprofit newsroom, ProPublica. It’s expanding to Chicago. Not exactly the boondocks, but at least it’s not New York. ProPublica offers a new model for investigative journalism. Whether that comes from New York or the boondocks, we need that now.

To Pro Publica, you can contribute information. You can also contribute money.  And if you care about the future of journalism, subscribe to the Columbia Journalism Review. 






They sold a thousand tickets —

— to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir tonight.’

estonianIt’s in the Princeton University Concert series usually held in Alexander Hall, but, ever-so-appropriately, the venue for the choir is the Princeton University Chapel.

After years of enjoying Janell Byrne’s choreography to the work of Arvo Part “the uncrowned king of Estonian music,” I’m looking forward to hearing his choral work in that Gothic cathedral space.

Here is the program.

Though the ‘regular’ tickets are sold out, there are ‘obstructed view’ seats available and who cares about the view? But the snow will discourage some, and concert series director Marna Seltzer suggests “likely you will be able to move to a better seat.”

With its riches of Westminster Choir College and the American Boychoir, Princeton is a singer’s town. Next weekend we’ll welcome 800 singers from all over the world for a choral festival, “Sing ‘n Joy Princeton.” Trinity Church hosts a “Friendship Concert”  on Friday night, February 17, and Princeton United Methodist Church hosts a concert on Sunday, February 19, at 3 p.m. It’s free!

3 p.m.  – Friendship Concert – Princeton United Methodist Church
• ChildrenSong of New Jersey (Haddonfield, NJ, USA)
• Paduan Suara El-Shaddai Universitas Sumatera Utara (Sumatera Utara, Indonesia)
• Liberty North High School Choir (Liberty, MO, USA)
• Shanghai Jiao Tong University Choir (Shanghai, China)
• Vassar College Majors (Poughkeepsie, NY, USA)

Take part in the joy!


Marathon Singing Today


For anyone who appreciates outstanding music, please join the community at Nassau Presbyterian Church (at the top of Palmer Square) anytime from 11 am Tuesday, January 31 (yes, that’s today) to 11 am Wednesday, February 1. Westminster Choir College is one of Princeton’s crown jewels, and we cannot afford to lose it to the Lawrenceville campus of Rider University. The musical equipment, the recital rooms and even the culture simply cannot be duplicated in another location.

There is no cost to attend, and you won’t be asked to do anything but enjoy — John F. Kelsey. 

Here is the back story: 

Marathon Performance To Save Westminster Choir College’s Princeton Campus 

Hundreds of performers including dozens of choirs, prominent opera voices, quartets, organists, pianists, students, alumni and other members of the music world who support Westminster Choir College will hold a 24-hour marathon choir performance on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 11 a.m. at the 180 year old Nassau Presbyterian Church located at 61 Nassau Street in Princeton. The performance will last through Wednesday morning.

The marathon performance will be held so the performers, who will come from throughout the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia areas, can show their opposition to Rider University’s plan to close Westminster Choir College’s Princeton campus and consolidate all students onto the Lawrenceville campus. It is being considered in order to avoid a possible $13.1 million deficit by 2019.

“The announcement has outraged current Westminster students, parents and alumni because the historic Princeton campus is unique in the world in preparing performing artists for the rigors of concert halls, classrooms and recording studios,” the Coalition to Save Westminster College said in a release announcing the event. “Over the last 90 years, Westminster Choir College choirs have performed with premier orchestras and conductors, welcoming the likes of Arturo Toscanini, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Mazur, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.”

Rider University first announced this possibility in December. After that, the coalition was formed. Additionally, a petition that has launched, known as Keep Rider University’s Westminster Choir College Campus in Princeton Open, and there is a Keep Westminster Choir College in Princeton Facebook group.

Earlier this month, the coalition made its case to the Princeton Historic Preservation Committee that the Princeton campus is worthy of historic designation.

“At a time when arts, music and theatre programs are being threatened across the United States, this ninety year old institution which has trained many of our nation’s leading artists cannot be allowed to become a victim of the accountant’s balance sheet,” the coalition said in its statement issued this week. The final decision, expected next month, may come at a later date.

Please do not respond to this…but attend if you care about music.

Very sincerely

John F. Kelsey, III