How dancing, singing and playing shape the ethnographer: research with children in a Balinese dance studio


  • Jonathan McIntosh Queen's University Belfast



In this article I contribute to the debate on research methods in ethnomusicology. To do this I illustrate how active engagement in the activities and learning processes of children better enables the ethnographer to gain insights into children's musical worlds. This is borne out of my research concerning children's practice and performance of dance, music and song in South-central Bali. The principle aim of my research was to examine the role of music and dance in the everyday lives of Balinese children. This was achieved through an investigation of children's learning and performance of ceremonial and secular traditional dance forms, children's songs and games, and children's disco dance performances. Taking Corsaro's (1985) 'reactive approach', which is responding to or following the children's wishes as my key fieldwork strategy, I show how I developed a basic practical knowledge of Balinese dance and children's songs. This knowledge then made it easier for me to communicate with children and for them to invite me to participate in their music, dance and play activities. I demonstrate that such occasions were beneficial to my research work, because in allowing me to gain insights into their learning of traditional dance and to learn about their songs and games, my potential child-informants also had an opportunity to discover who I was and why I wanted to learn from them.

Author Biography

Jonathan McIntosh, Queen's University Belfast

Jonathan McIntosh is currently completing a PhD in ethnomusicology in the School of History and Anthropology at Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. He has conducted fieldwork on children's music and dance in Bali, Indonesia, and in Northern Ireland concerning gamelan and applied ethnomusicology. At QUB, he teaches on both the ethnomusicology and social anthropology programmes. He is director of the Queen's University Balinese gamelan ensemble Gamelan Gong Kebyar Widya Santi (gamelan of knowledge and peace) and a performer of Balinese dance. He can be contacted at jonathanmcintosh(AT)


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