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Wayang means drama, which has distinct Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese variants. Its dance style probably originated in ancient unmasked dances whose modern descendants include the deeply revered bedaja, a court dance for nine women who move in unison in graceful, abstract patterns. The wayang topeng, or masked dance, is usually a solo character interpretation drawn from Hindu legends. Village customs and popular and include other dance forms.

There are also various forms of puppet shows. The "Wayang kulit" (shadow —puppet theater) of java is performed with leather puppets held by the "dalang" (puppeteer), who narrates the story of one of the famous episodes of the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata or the Ramayana.

It is performed against a white screen while a lantern in the background casts the shadows of the characters on the screen, visible from the other side where the spectators are seated. The "Wayang Golek" (Wooden puppets) of West java is based on the same concept.