Reog is a traditional dance that became the main identity for Ponorogo Regency. Reog National Festival is held every year along with the anniversary of Ponorogo regency and the Grebeg Suro celebration. Reog dance is also staged nightly on the full moon in Paseban, Ponorogo town square. Reog tells the story about the struggle of a prince who will propose to a beautiful princess. Reog Ponorogo tells the story of a mythical battle between the King of Ponorogo and the magical lion-like creature called Singa Barong.
+>Singa Barong mask
The Reog dance of Ponorogo involves a lion figure known as the singa barong. Singa Barong is a large mask usually made from a tiger's or leopard's head skin, on the mask is a large fan adorned with real peafowl feathers. The Singa Barong mask is notoriously heavy and the dancer of the Singa Barong has to carry the mask of about 30 – 40 kg in weight and is supported by the strength of their teeth.
A single dancer, or warok, carries the heavy lion mask by his teeth. He is credited with supernatural abilities and strength. The warok may also carry an adolescent boy or girl on its head. When carrying an adolescent boy or girl on his head, the Reog dancer holds weight of up to 100 kilograms in total. Holding the heavy big mask by biting, the warok relies on the strength of his jaws, neck and shoulder muscles. The great mask spans over 2.5 meters with genuine tiger skin and real peacock feathers. It has gained international recognition as the world's largest mask.
The leading figures in Reog Ponorogo performance includes:
Reog Ponorogo usually consists of three sets of dances; each dance is performed by several dancers:
+> Culture and traditions of Reog Ponorogo
Reog dancers in Ponorogo, ca. 1920.
The dance describe Klono Sewandono the king of Ponorogo on his journey to Kediri to seek the hands of Princess Songgo Langit. On his journey he was attacked by a vicious monster called Singa Barong, a mythical lion with peacock on its head. Historians trace the origin of Reog Ponorogo as the satire on the incompetence of Majapahit rulers during the end of the empire. It describe the innate Ponorogo liberty and its opposition on centralist Majapahit rule. The lion represent the king of Majapahit while the peafowl represent the queen, it was suggested that the king was incompetent and always being controlled by his queen. The beautiful, youthful and almost effeminate horsemen describe the Majapahit cavalry that have lost their manliness.
In society, there is another version about the origin of the reog. History of Reog Arts began the revolt of Ki Ageng ticks, a man of Majapahit Kingdom in the 15th century, where at that time the Majapahit Kingdom under the rule of the King of Kertabhumi Bhre last Majapahit Kingdom. Ki Ageng Kutu wrath against the corrupt behavior of his King, he saw that the powers of the Majapahit Kingdom soon will end. He left the Kingdom and founded a College of martial arts in hopes of raising seeds which can be held as under. Aware that the army was not able to compete with the Majapahit army Political messages of Ki Ageng Kutu were submitted through the performances of Reog. Performance of Reog utilized Ki Ageng Kutu to build resistance to the Royal Society. In art performances Reog was shown the head of a lion-shaped mask called "Singo Barong", Kings of the forest that became a symbol of Kertabumi, and it plugged up to peacock feathers to resemble a giant fan that symbolises the strong influence of the governing Chinese pronunciation of peers over all. Jatilan, played by a group of dancers a gemblak horses-shaped became a symbol of the power of the Kingdom of Majapahit into comparison contrast with the power of warok. Red clown mask that became the symbol for Ki Ageng Kutu, alone and support the weight of the mask singo barong that reaches over 50 kg using only his teeth. And finally reog Ki Ageng Kutu attacking the college, causing kertabumi an uprising by warok quickly resolve, and forbidden to continue teaching will warok. But the disciples Ki Ageng Kutu remain continue secretly. However, artistry reog itself is allowed to stage performances because has become popular among the people but the storyline having a groove in which the characters of new added folktale ponorogo kelono sewondono, namely dewi songgolangit, and sri genthayu.
Reog Ponorogo dancers traditionally performed in a trance state. Reog Ponorogo displays the traditional Kejawen Javanese spiritual teaching. Next to physical requirement, the dancers—especially the Warok—required to follow strict rules, rituals and exercises, both physical and spiritual. One of the requirement is abstinence, warok is prohibited to indulged and involved in sexual relationship with women, yet having sex with boy age eight to fifteen is allowed. The boy lover is called Gemblak and usually kept by Warok in their household under the agreement and compensation to the boy's family. Warok can be married with a woman as their wive, but they may kept a gemblak too. This led to Warok-Gemblakan relationship that similar to pederastic tradition of ancient Greece. Anybody who is in touch with the traditional way of life in Ponorogo, knows that there are these older men called warok who, instead of having sex with their wives, have sex with younger boys. What Warok and Gemblak did is homosexual act, yet they never identify themself as homosexuals.
Many Warok and Gemblak were massacred by Islamic groups during the anti-communist Indonesian killings of 1965-1966, their heads placed on pikes for public display. Today the Warok-Gemblakan practice is discouraged by local religious authorities and being shunned through public moral opposition. As the result today Reog Ponorogo performance rarely features Gemblak boys to perform as Jatil horsemen, their position were replaced by girls. Although today this practice might probably still survived and done in discreet manner.
> Reog Ponorogo today
Today, Reog Ponorogo is often held on festive special occasions; such as the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, anniversary of Ponorogo Regency, Independence day carnival on 17 August, to opening ceremony of sporting events. Today, reog troupe performances can be seen in various countries brought by Indonesian workers. Such as in the United States (Singo Lodoyo Washington DC), Korea (Singo Mudho Korea), Taiwan (Singo Barong Taiwan), Australia (Singo Sarjono), naval expedition Indonesia (Reog Dewaruci), Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia (Sardulo Gugah Ponorogo, Sri Wahyuni, Gamalasari).