Photographic Documentary of Balinese Ramayana Dance in Ubud Bali
Balinese Dance is a complex art form that cannot fail to capture the attention of those who appreciate beauty. It is an explosive performance plagued with creativity and artistic work, which manifests not only in the choreography, but in the music, wardrobe, makeup, scenery and acting abilities of the dancers.
There are many different styles of Balinese Dances but they all originated from a blend of Indian epics, court stories and Javanese culture.
Kecak Bali Dance, Scene from the Ramayana
Kecak Fire & Trance Dance
The Kecak Fire & Trance Dance is based on Indian mythology, particularly the Ramayana, from which the epic poem of King Rama was picked as inspiration for the Complex Dance.
In the epic story, King Rama was exiled from court and takes refuge in the forest, where he lived with his wife Dewi Sita and his brother Laksamana. Once in the forest, Dewi Sita sees a strange golden deer by which she is mystified, and asks his husband to hunt it for her.
While the King is away on his mission, Dewi Sita is kidnapped by the Ogre King Rahwana and makes her his prisoner. Rama rescues his wife by making an alliance with the monkey army, led by the white monkey Hanoman, and defeating the Ogre King.
How the Balinese Dance "Kecak" Begins
The performance starts with a beautifully decorated stage, composed mainly of mythological religious items, embellished with yellow and pink petals, and illuminated only by warm and cozy candle light. Just before the dance starts, a man comes into the stage and lights an oil lamp chandelier around which the artists dance. First up, a hundred bare breasted men enter the stage and sit in circle around the chandelier. They are the choir that puts sound to the performance, using their bodies to create percussion music, claps and chak-chak noises; progressively, they start dancing to the rhythmic sound of their own voices, their hands raised to the sky and bodies shaking in unison.
Sequenced Images of Kecak Balinese Dance Performed at Local Theater in Ubud, IndonesiaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Visit Bali and Witness the Energetic Kecak Balinese Dance
Kecak Peculiarities & Special Beauty
After some intense prayer to the gods, the personification of King Rama´s epic story begins with the protagonists of the story moving and dancing around the chandelier. Female characters hold curious Indian-like positions with their hands and fingers and move their very expressive eyes in traditional Ramayana style. Male characters move in stronger more abrupt ways, specially the monkey army fellows, who jump from one extreme to the other. In general, Kecak is a fully energized dynamic dance.
The beauty of Balinese Kecak dance is hugely enhanced by the wonderfully detailed, colorful and extravagant wardrobe of the performers, which wear layer after layer of complex haute couture, including coats, belts, headdresses, masks, hats, arm, forearm and chest ornaments, wrists and ankle bracelets, as well as a heavy coat of exaggerated makeup that take you into a whole different fantasy world of surreal characters.
Legong Balinese Dance
The Legong Dance is a more graceful and elegant dance; much softer and less explosive than the previous one. The performers are equally attired in beautiful, embroidered and colorful garments, and wear similar ornaments, jewelry, masks, hats and makeup. Characters are also inspired in Indian mythology but this time, their performances and movements are accompanied by live music played by musicians sitting in the stage. Music is played with traditional Balinese percussion instruments, such as the Balinese Gamelan.
The Legong dance is characterized by complex postures, movements and mimicry that take years to master. Dancers have to synchronize their eyes, feet, toes, legs, hips, arms, hands and fingers and make sometimes unnatural, difficult positions. The art in each element of the performance is an ode to creativity and full powered imagination.
Captured Moments of a Legong Performance in Ubud, BaliClick thumbnail to view full-size
Balinese Dances are performed all throughout Bali, the performances here documented took place in the beautiful mountain town of Ubud and go highly recommended.
Bali Dance Literature
If you would like to read more about Balinese performing arts, this is a highly rated option to document yourself with.
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