Bali university students scour YouTube for erotic Balinese dance content to flag and report

Photo: A live action performance of joget bumbung
Photo: A live action performance of joget bumbung

Students are banding together from various university campuses across Bali to trawl through YouTube in search of erotic Balinese dance content to flag as inappropriate content to the video sharing platform.

In a youth-led movement called “Stop Joged Jaruh,” students are reporting videos depicting an erotic Balinese dance called joget (or joged) bumbung, which they are decrying as offensive.

“With this movement from the young generation of Bali, we hope YouTube will get rid of all joget bumbung content that’s not appropriate,” head of Bali Province’s Cultural Affairs Department, Putu Beratha, said in Denpasar on Thursday, as quoted by Antara Bali

In an event at the Sitkom Bali campus in the island’s capital Denpasar on Thursday, 147 students got together on their laptops and phones for a ‘power reporting’ session where they all got online and successfully reported instances of 4,500 of the “offensive” dance to YouTube, according to local media. They were able to amass such a high count of reports, because all they had to do was dislike questionable content and select the “report” option on YouTube, then give a reason why.

Joget bumbung is a Balinese dance where female dancers will move seductively, encouraging male audience members to come up and participate. However, the dance can get quite raunchy and as it’s done for entertainment purposes, rather than religious ones like most other traditional Balinese dances, it’s been quite the target of controversy–the island’s governor has even previously tried to ban it.

The rise of joget bumbung is not compatible with the ethics of Balinese culture, says Beratha.

“Indeed, the fate of Bali, the future is on the shoulders of the younger generations. Bali still wants to be Pulau Dewata (Island of the Gods), a heavenly island, or Bali will be destroyed. This will depend on how the younger generation address this,” Beratha said.

But joget bumbung didn’t always used to be so darn dirty; it seems certain sleazy fellows like these guys who went all ‘from the windows to the wall’ at a charity event to benefit Mount Agung evacuees have carried the dance past the line of seductiveness into pornographic territory.

Remember, the dance, which is supposed to be seductive (not vulgar), is UNESCO World Heritage recognized, says Marlowe Bandem, deputy director of the Widya Dharma Santhi Foundation, a local education-oriented NGO.

But it’s gone out of bounds especially when children are involved, explains Bandem, who noted that spectators of live joget bumbung performances are often children–like at the Agung charity instance, where kids were a large part of the audience. 

“The (YouTube reporting) action is done to encourage Balinese people to be more introspective and so they can see the development of Balinese art in the future,” he said.

The point isn’t to inhibit the creativity of Balinese artists, but to make sure that Balinese culture is not harassed in any way, according to Bandem.

Meanwhile, a student of the arts institute, ISI Denpasar, said she participated in the mass YouTube cleansing to help protect the dignity of the Balinese art of dance.

“Joget is not worth it if allowed to continue on like this. It’s impact will be destructive and bring down the culture of Bali,” she said.

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