Beautiful, Beautiful, and Graceful, Lengger Lanang in Banyumas Against the Ages


The lengger lanang art in Banyumas is unique. Not a female dancer, lengger lanang is danced by men who wear women’s clothing and dance gracefully.

One of the perpetrators of the lengger lanang art that still exists is Mas Piko. He is only 22 years old. However, at that young age he had already become one of the famous lengger lanang dancers in Banyumas.

“I am still active as lengger, even though regeneration among young people is somewhat hampered. Because of the view of young people that being lengger is katrok, ndeso, even though if there are no successors it can be lost,” said Piko in a conversation with detikJateng.

According to him, being a lengger requires its own preparation both physically and mentally. Because of the stigma, the general public often considers being a lengger lanang something out of the ordinary.

Because, when performing, they behave like a woman. However, he continued, until now he has never received bad treatment from the public or the audience.

“Even though I’ve been safe so far, I haven’t experienced any bad treatment. However, being a lengger lanang is ready to be called stupid because men dress like women,” he said.

Rianto, a lengger lanang dancer from Banyumas who now lives in Japan.Rianto, a lengger lanang dancer from Banyumas who now lives in Japan. Photo: Personal Doc Rianto by Kanca Nusantara

Even though it is consumed by the lower class of society, lengger lanang still exists today. There are still many people who invite the lengger lanang art when holding celebrations.

“Responses were quite a lot, in a month I myself got 7 to 8 times,” said Piko.

“What invites the most people from ordinary circles,” he said.

Lengger lanang grew up in Banyumas for a long time. Lelakon lengger lanang was written in Serat Centhini volume V. The fiber was written in 1814-1823 which was initiated by the Crown Prince of the Solo Palace Amangkunagara III who was then enthroned with the title Paku Buwono V.

In the traces written on Serat Centhini it is known that the art of lengger lanang has existed in the Wirasaba area, now known as Banyumas, hundreds of years ago.

This lengger lanang art is indeed unique, different from most lengger in general which are danced by a woman. Lengger lanang is danced by men who wear women’s clothing and dance gracefully.

In an article entitled The Existence of Lengger Lanang Langgeng Sari Banyumas (Imaji Journal Vol 19 No 1, 2021), Resita Aprilia wrote that lengger lanang is an art that lives and develops in Banyumas.

In fact, this dance is actually danced by men. However, later on there were also many women who danced the lengger.

In a paper presented at the 2015 Socialization and Documentary Film Screening event in Banyumas Regency, Ahmad Tohari wrote that the roots of lengger art are believed to originate from the tradition of worshiping the Goddess of Fertility, which was previously practiced by the Hindu community.

“So in the beginning it was a sacred rite,” wrote Ahmad Tohari in a seminar paper organized by the Yogyakarta Cultural Value Preservation Agency.

However, this rite later developed among the farmers who also worshiped the goddess of fertility. So in the past, the Lengger dance was performed as a form of gratitude for a successful harvest.

Tohari refers to lengger lanang as transgender art whose existence has been mentioned in the Centhini Fiber. In 2015, Ahmad Tohari noted that in Banyumas there are still seven young lengger lanang dancers.

However, for the people in Banyumas, it is not only the skill of dancing with women’s movements that is needed by a lengger lanang dancer. The community believes that only people who are possessed by indang can become lengger dancers.

“Until now there are still many people who believe in the existence of an indang lengger which is said to be able to possess women or men. If a person or young woman or man is possessed by an indang, then he will become lengger. That is the myth that has long lived in Banyumas ,” wrote Tohari in the paper.


This article also appeared on detikJateng. For more, click here.

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