Dance and Drama
that it is difficult to enjoy something you do not understand,
we've outlined a few of the more popular dances below. These dances
have chosen because they showcase a wide variety of dance styles,
use different types of musical instruments to accompany them and
because there are regularly scheduled performances that are easy
to find. As you will notice most the dances revolve around the
Ramayana epic. The difference is that different parts of the Ramayana
story are used to suit different types of music and dances (i.e.
romance, war, moral story etc.) When performed in the villages
during important ceremonies some of these dances may well go on
for hours - but the regularly scheduled performances last about
one hour. We encourage you to see as many dances as possible -
they are after all one of the reasons Bali is so special and your
interest will help ensure that tradition of Balinese dance continues.
Tegal, Batubulan. Daily 9:30 a.m.
Saren, Ubud. Fridays 6:30 p.m.
to the Gong Kebyar - an orchestra formed by a group of gamelan
instruments (musical instruments with five notes forged from copper
and bronze) and various metal gongs and symbols. The Barong dance
is the classic story of good (The Barong) triumphing over evil
( The evil witch Rangda). The Barong is a large lion type creature
played by two men, Rangda is the epitome of evil with long fingernails
and droopy breasts. The Barong is going about his business until
he is interrupted by Rangda. Ultimately a battle ensues and the
Barongs followers begin attacking Rangda with their Keris
(daggers). Rangda, being a witch, is able to use magical powers
to turn the daggers against their owners, who fall into a trance
and try to stab themselves. The Barong, also having magical powers,
protects his followers from harm and Rangda retreats into the
forest to rest and prepare for the next battle. The intensity
of the Barong's followers in their attempts to stab themselves
is really quite frightening and the trance is usually very real
- and there is always a priest on hand to revive the dancers with
to see the Barong Dance:
Ubud Mondays and Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Ubud Fridays 7.30 p.m.
accompanied by the Gong Kebyar (see above), The Legong dance is
perhaps the most graceful of Balinese dances. It is performed
only by young girls 8-12 years old (after reaching puberty the
girls usually stop performing this dance). Three girls perform
the dance - 2 Legongs and an attendant. With their lithe bodies,
the dance tells the tale of a certain princess Rangkesari who
is held captive by King Laksmi. The princess' brother, Daha, tries
to persuade King Laksmi to let his sister go. When the king refuses
Daha, gathers an army together to force his sister's release.
On his away to attack King Laksmi Daha is attacked by a crow.
This proves to be a bad omen as later on Daha is killed in battle.
Even though you never see the male characters the dance ends as
the King leaves to fight Daha.
to see the Legong Dance:
Catur Eka Budi,
(Art Center) Denpasar, Daily 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday 7:00 p.m.
may be the most famous of Balinese dances but it is not a traditional
dance. It was developed in the 1930s in the village of Bona
specifically to cater to Western tastes. With no musical instruments
accompanying this dance the dance troupe is "accompanied"
by a large group of men (the more the better), naked from the
waist up chanting kechak-ke-chack. The story of the
dance is taken from the Ramayana epic and tells how the evil King
Rahwana uses trickery to kidnap Rama's wife Dewi Sita and how
Rama with the help of the white monkey army rescues his wife and
defeats evil. While there are no trances or daggers flaying about
this is still a very exciting dance to watch.
to see the Kecak Dance:
Ubud, Mondays 8.00 p.m.
Ubud, Tuesdays 8.00 p.m.
is the full blown Ramayana epic adventure and is a spectacular
dance replete with several characters all in different and gorgeous
costumes. The story tells more or less the same story as the Kecak
(see above) with one important difference - there is no Kecak
"orchestra" rather the dancers are accompanied by a
full 30 piece Gong Kebyar orchestra. Done well, this dance is
not to be missed.
to see the Ramayana Ballet:
the Makepung dance is one part of a dance program with 3 or 4
short dances. Accompanied by the "Jegog" - another 5
note instrument but in this case made of very large pieces of
bamboo. So large in fact that the musician must sit on top of
the instrument in order to play it. Loud without being ear splitting
the deep sound vibrates right through your body.
Makepung tells of the folklore surrounding bull racing. Together
with a couple of other short dances - the Manuk Rawa (a cute dance
about the happy go lucky life of deer in the forest) and the Belibis
(a story along the lines of the ugly duckling fable - but in reverse!)
this is great opportunity to see some very, very beautiful costumes
and listen to a quite unusual instrument. If you get the chance,
don't miss it - it's rarely performed in hotels - and try to sit
near the Jegog orchestra.
Ubud - Sunday/Wednesday 8.00 p.m.
Wayang Kulit is not a dance per se but is still one of our favorites.
The Wayang Kulit are Shadow puppets and this cultural treat is
often overlooked by the tour operators because there are no flashy
costumes. The "stage" is quite small - really only a
bed sheet with a lantern illuminating it from behind so you will
need to sit close. In this intimate night setting you will get
a good idea of how this ancient tradition is still performed in
the villages throughout Indonesia. This is Indonesian story telling
at its best - and has often been used as a way to poke fun at
the powers that be. Accompanied by a gamelan and drum and gong,
the Dalang or puppet master commands up to 50 puppets made of
flat pieces of dried leather. Since each puppet must have a different
voice and have different characters (i.e. funny, smart, stupid,
and so on) you can see why the Dalang is a clever man indeed.
to see the Wayang Kulit:
many cultures dance and drama are important to pass on customs
and mores from one generation to the next. Such is true in Bali
where dance & drama has historically been used to pass down
cultural values through the tales of Ramayana, Mahabarata and
other epic stories from Balinese history. It is interesting
to note that the Balinese never tire of watching these dances
even though they may have seen them umpteen times before and
know each movement by heart.
If you are interested in learning more about these or other
Balinese dances, some hotels have classes (great way for the
children to spend the day) or you may contact the National State
of Indonesian Arts (Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia) in Denpasar
- Bali. Telephone: 227 316.