Dance & Drama in Bali – Beryl de Zoete, Walter Spies (1938) (1st ed)


Dance & Drama in Bali – Beryl de Zoete, Walter Spies (1938) (1st ed)


First edition of the classic, definitive work on Balinese dance and drama.

Title: Dance and Drama in Bali

Author: Beryl de Zoete, Walter Spies, Arthur Waley (intro)

Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, 1938. First edition.

Condition: Hardcover, no dust jacket. Very good. Red stains to the back cover, but not severe. Slight wear to cover. Rough cut edges. Binding tight, text clean. With 112 beautiful photographic plates. A large book overseas shipping will cost extra.

An exhaustive and definitive guide to Balinese dance and drama, with 112 beautiful photographic plates of performers in early 20th century Bali.

About the book (from Goodreads):

First published in 1938, Dance and Drama in Bali is a classic introduction to Balinese dance by the famous German artist Walter Spies. This timeless work is an indispensable guide to the dances and dance-dramas of the Balinese.

About Beryl de Zoete (from Wikipedia):

Beryl Drusilla de Zoete, also known as Beryl de Sélincourt (1879 in London – 4 March 1962) was an English ballet dancer, orientalist, dance critic, and dance researcher. She is also known as a translator of Italo Svevo and Alberto Moravia.

Born in London of Dutch descent, she lived there for most of her life. She studied English at Somerville College, Oxford. In 1902, a year after she graduated, she married Basil de Sélincourt, though the marriage lasted for only a few years. She published poems in the modernist magazine The Open Window. She entered into a lifelong relationship with the Orientalist and translator Arthur Waley, whom she met in 1918 but never married. She traveled extensively, particularly in Bali and South Asia.

In the field of dance, she taught eurhythmics, investigated Indian dance and theatre traditions, and collaborated with Walter Spies on Dance and Drama in Bali (1937), which is still a standard reference for traditional Balinese dance and theatrical forms. She studied dance, at least in part with Emile Jaques-Dalcroze in 1913 and 1915, and subsequently taught dance until sometime in the 1920s. She wrote on dance at various times for The Daily Telegraph, the New Statesman and Nation and Ballet (edited by Richard Buckle). She published books on dance in Bali (1938), India (1953) and Sri Lanka (1957).

About Walter Spies (from Wikipedia):

Walter Spies (15 September 1895 – 19 January 1942) was a Russian-born German primitivist painter, composer, musicologist, and curator.[1] In 1923 he moved to Java, Indonesia. He lived in Yogyakarta and then in Ubud, Bali starting from 1927. He is often credited with attracting the attention of Western cultural figures to Balinese culture and art in the 1930s and he influenced the direction of Balinese art and Balinese drama.

Mexican artist and anthropologist Miguel Covarrubias, who lived and researched in Bali with his wife Rose at that time, wrote: “Walter Spies, Bali’s most famous resident, was the son of a German diplomat in Moskow at the outbreak of the World War. Spies was already well known in Europe as a painter in 1923. (…). As fine a musician as he was a painter (…), after the war he ran away from disorganized Europe to the East until he reached Java, where he was called by the Sultan of Djokjakarta to organize and lead a Western orchestra. He lived for years in the Sultan’s court learning their music. Then one day he went to Bali on a visit and has remained there ever since”.[2]

Covarrubias and Spies became very close. Covarrubias wrote about his friend: “The months went by as Rose and I roamed all over the island with Spies, watching strange ceremonies, enjoying their music, listening to fantastic tales, camping in the wilds of West Bali or on the coral reefs of Sanur. Walter loved to collect velvety dragonflies, strange spiders and sea-slugs, not in a naturalist’s box, but in minutely accurate drawings. For days at a time he would be in his tent drawing them, because once dead, their beautiful colors disappeared. He was temperamental when he went into seclusion to paint, he would work incessantly for months on one of his rare canvases. (…). He also painted dreamlike landscapes in which every branch and every leaf is carefully painted, done with the love of a Persian miniaturist, a Cranach, a Breughel or a Douanier Rousseau”.

The knowledge of every aspect of Balinese culture that Spies provided for Covarrubias’ research was well-acknowledged by the latter. “In his charming devil-may-care way, Spies was familiar with every phase of Balinese life and was the constant source of disinterested information to every archaeologist, anthropologist, musician or artist who has come to Bali. His assistance was given generously and without expecting even the reward of credit”. “Spies was the first to appreciate and record Balinese music, he collected every pattern of Balinese art, contributed to Dutch scientific journals -the Dutch were the colonial power in Bali since 30 years earlier-, he created the Bali Museum of which he was the curator, and built a splendid aquarium”.

In 1937, Spies built what he described as a “mountain hut” at Iseh in Karangasem. Spies was the co-founder of the Pita Maha artists cooperative, through which he shaped the development of modern Balinese art and established the Westerner’s image of Bali that still exists today.

After living for nine years at the confluence of two rivers in Campuan (Ubud), Spies grew weary of his increasingly hectic social life, and retired to the tranquil mountain retreat that was to become the setting of some of his most beautiful and atmospheric paintings, including “Iseh im Morgenlicht 1938” Despite his desire to escape from a constant stream of visitors, Spies still used to receive guests at Iseh, including the musician Colin McPhee and his wife, anthropologist Jane Belo, the Swiss artist Theo Meier and the Austrian novelist Vicki Baum. Vicki Baum accredits Walter Spies with providing her the factual historical information and details on Balinese culture for her historical fiction novel “Love and Death in Bali” – dealing with the Dutch intervention in Bali (1906), and first published in German in 1937.