One of the most memorable experiences you can have on your adventure to Bali ‘the Island of the gods’ is a trip up to Ubud in Central Bali. Ubud is the epicenter of culture in Bali, a lush emerald green paradise of breeze swept and terraced rice paddies in the hills and the hub of all things spiritual, art and the performing arts, it is here in Ubud that you can find the most amazing traditional local dance performances staged outside under the stars in locations that have the feeling of an Indiana Jones Movie !!
Out of the many traditional dance routines that exist in Balinese culture the three famous performances that take place on a regular basis after sunset in Ubud are the Barong, Legong and the Kecak fire dance. All up a heady mixture of puppetry, intricate and beautiful Balinese ballet and rhythmic, hypnotic trance ritual chanting all to the backdrop of the traditional Gamelan orchestra.
The Barong dance tells the tale of the Barong a mythical creature that is a protector spirit and represents good and his constant battles with the evil witch queen Rangda and the bad sprits. The form of the Barong is a big shaggy haired lion like creature with a ferocious looking mask and snapping jaws, perhaps one of the most famous images of all Balinese culture. Along with the large Barong puppet there are various other creatures in this pantomime routine including tigers, monkeys, wild boars, midgets and witches as well as beautiful female Balinese dancing and Gamelan orchestral music.
The Legong dance traditionally is performed by two young girls and is centered around an unbelievably beautiful Balinese dance routine telling tales of heroic romances between kings, queens and princesses in a dynamic dance-pantomime, highly expressive with intricate hand, finger and foot movements and facial expressions. In the villages baby girls are played Balinese orchestral music while they are still in the pregnant mother’s tummy and learn the intricate hand movements often before they can walk !!
Most exciting and dramatic of all is the Kecak dance which can often combine many of the aspects of the Barong and legong in the tourist performances. This routine is a high energy trance ritual with puppetry, fire, and the music provided by large choir of men chanting “Kecak, Kecak, Kecak” and swaying in complete harmony arms outstretched in perfect unison in waves back and forth. The Kecak dance is usually performed at sunset as the last rays of sun disappear to be replaced with dancing shadows from flaming torches and coconut husks.
These amazing performances are staged most evenings at various locations in and around Ubud along with a famous Kecak performance on the cliff top at the Uluwatu temple in Southern Bali so be sure to include one or two performances in your Bali itinerary.