Balinese dances are part of the ancient tradition on the island and the way its habitants use to express themselves. Balinese dancers express the stories of dance-drama through the bodily gestures including gestures of fingers, hands, head, and eyes. Most of the dances in Bali are connected to Hindu rituals, masks and makeup are dramatic, costumes vivid. UNESCO recognizes three genres of traditional dance in Bali as cultural heritage, and they are Wali (sacred dances), Bebali (semi-sacred dances) and Balih-balihan (dances for entertainment purposes). Each of that category has three variants, and it is specific for some part of the island.
But today most popular dances are barong, condoning, legong and kecak. The latter is also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant and performed by a circle of at least 150 performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting “cak” and moving their hands and arms, depicts a battle from the Ramayana. It is thunderous and quite exciting. The best place to see it is in Uluwatu Temple just before sunset and not to be missed! You can see legong and barong dances in Ubud palace.
Barong is the magical protector of Balinese villages. As “lord of the forest” with fantastic fanged mask and long mane, he is the opponent of Rangda the witch, who rules over the spirits of darkness, in the never ending fight between good and evil. In legong, the story derives from the history of East Java in the 12th and 13th centuries. A king finds the maiden Rangke- sari lost in the forest. He takes her home and locks her in a house. Rangkesari’s brother, the Prince of Daha, learns of her captivity and threatens of war unless she is set free. Most temples and historical sites have Balinese dances you just have to ask locals about it.■