Balinese dance is a sacred form of artful story telling. From depictions of religious stories to epic tales of the battle between good and evil, Balinese dancing is an intricate part of the country’s cultural heritage. Like other Southeast Asian dance forms, Balinese dance has brightly colored and intricately detailed costumes, make up and gestures. I find the whole experience mesmerizing!
There are a few famous dances: the Barong, Legong and Kecak. Each has it’s own characteristics of movement and characters. The Barong, for example, is named after Barong, a king of the spirits, who resembles a lion. This dance commonly depicts the struggle between Barong and Rangda – the evil queen.
The Legong, the dance of the girls, is performed by girls who have not yet hit puberty. Known for it’s expressive facial expressions, finger movements and very complicated footwork, the dance is somewhat of a pantomime of traditional stories.
Kecak depicts the battle between Prince Rama and King Ravana from the Ramayana. Performed almost exclusively by men, a large group of dancers perform the dance in a circle, chanting and dancing in coordination with each other. Interestingly, despite it’s religious origins – the dance is less than 100 years old!
The picture below is from a Barong and Legong performance in Ubud. I love the fantastical costume of the performer as well as the painstaking detail of the set.
IF YOU GO: Bali is an incredible place for cultural travel. It’s unlikely that you’ll come upon one of these dances in a village, so don’t gawk at booking the experience at a theater for tourists. Ubud is a major art and cultural center so it’s made a name for itself as a stop for a variety of cultural shows, including Balinese dance.