Bali's Most important Dances
The Legong Dance is the most feminine dance on Bali and can contain different stories. Eighteen different kinds of Legong Dances have developed and depending on the story the dancers tell, 2-5 girls may perform at the same time.
In the most popular form of Legong, known as Legong Kraton, three female dancers perform together. Every dance has several things in common: the decorated costumes, the headdress with frangipani flowers and the dancers who wear beautiful elaborate make up. Dancers are accompanied by a gamelan orchestra.
Many young girls want to become popular Legong Dancers, however only the most talented girls are allowed to perform on stage.
The Legong Dance can be taught as early as four years old while the body is still very flexible. For some special temple ceremonies that occur only every thirty to fifty years, only young girls or boys that have not yet reached puberty can perform a special dance for the Gods. The Balinese believe that before puberty, it is easier for these young boys and girls to enter a trance.
Performances in restaurants are for entertainment only and can be performed by dancers of all ages.
The Kecak Dance, also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, is an absolute must see for visitors to Bali. This unique dance is performed by a hundred or more men using their voices as percussive musical instruments. The men sit in a circle just in front of the audience. They sway, stand up, or lie prone as the story develops.
The chanting men wear checked cloth around their waists, leave their chests bare, and throw their arms upwards with their fingers outstretched to the sky. This gesture drives out evil. Some of the men become actors in the drama being unfolded by the dancers who enter the stage and shows a battle from the Ramayana. As the performers chant, dancers stage a battle in which the monkey king, Sugriwa and his army of monkeys help Prince Rama fight the evil King Rahwana. Kecak has its origins in sanghyang, an exorcism dance in which some dancers go into a trance. The Kecak is so popular among tourists that you can find performances almost anywhere on Bali. One of the best places is at the cliff-top temple of Ulu Watu. However, Kecak can be seen in Ubud, Batubulan, and all over the island. Any place you choose, you are sure to enjoy the drama.
Barong is probably the most well known Balinese dance. This dance tells the story of the fight between good and evil. The Barong Dance is a good example of the Balinese way of acting out the relationship between mythology and history being blended into one reality. Rangda, the mother of Erlangga, the King of Bali in the tenth century, was condemned by Erlangga’s father because she practiced black magic. After she became a widow, she summoned all the evil spirits in the jungle to punish Erlangga. A fight occurred, but she and her black magic troops were so strong that Erlangga had to ask for the help of Barong. Barong came to help Erlangga’s soldiers. They began to fight. Rangda cast a spell that made Erlangga’s soldiers all want to kill themselves. The soliders then pointed their poisoned keris, a sharpened sword like knife, into their own stomachs and chests. Barong then cast a stronger spell that helped the soldiers’ bodies resist the sharp keris. In the end, Barong’s powers proved to be stronger, thus Rangda ran away. A participant can die or get seriously injured in a Barong dance. It is said that if Rangda’s spell is too strong, a weak soldier may not be able to resist it. Even with the help of Barong, he may end up hurting himself with his own keris. The masks of Barong and Rangda are considered sacred items, and before they are brought out, a priest must offer blessings by sprinkling them with holy water taken from Mount Agung. As well as the priests blessings, offerings must be presented.
Balinese Dances are impressive and were originally not performed to entertain tourists. The meaning is based on beliefs in the Bali Hindu Religion. In these dances you will still find much of the Balinese traditions.