Go to Uluwatu a couple of hours before dusk. You will encounter a crowd sitting restlessly in a Roman-style amphitheatre, fenced by the frenzy Indian Ocean. You might wonder what on earth they are doing in there. Are they waiting for the sunset? No, they are surely not. They are waiting for a dance, Kecak dance, in which a group of men sit in layers of the circle, moving their upper body back and forth, side to side, with both hands quivering, pointed up to the sky, and scream “cak!” continuously. Backgrounded by the solemn, orange sky, the dance will make you go back to your hotel with your jaw open several inches. The Balinese traditional dances are indeed magnificent. They are so captivating that at least eight of them have already been recognized by UNESCO:


Rejang dance is now quite popular among Indonesians. At least most of the Indonesians have heard about it. Several months ago, there was news about people in Bali who got possessed by some spiritual entities after the dance. You might, again, wonder: “Why?” Well, calm, because you are about to understand. Although the moves of Rejang are so simple that everyone could perform it, the dance is basically invented—thousands of years ago—for embracing the arrival of gods. And when you are about to embrace the gods, you are supposed to be mental and in a vulnerable state of being. That’s why a lot of people possessed after doing the dance. The most interesting part about Rejang is it is presented exclusively by women. So if you come from the other sex don’t even think about participating in the dance no matter how skilful you are at moving your body parts.

Sanghyang Dedari

Consider yourself lucky if you have an opportunity to see the sacred dance of Sanghyang Dedari because it is not the kind of dance to amuse people. In fact, Sanghyang Dedari is a spiritual set of movements to shoo the bad spirits as well as asking for good health and welfare from the gods. Similar to Rejang, it is not uncommon that the dancers become possessed during the dance. However, the Balinese believe that the ones who take over their bodies are the gods themselves who temporarily travel down to the realm of the human. The word “dedari” itself comes from bidadari or the angel. That is why Sanghyang Dedari is executed by teenage girls who are considered “pure” as the angels.

Baris Gede


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Pernah menari… 😄 #barisgede

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Unlike Rejang and Sanghyang Dedari which are performed by women, Baris Gede is the dance of men. It is usually shown in a ceremony at Pura and is aimed at guarding the gods who come down to earth to visit human. That’s why the number of dancers is quite many, from eight to forty people. It varies depending on the local culture and belief. The accessories of the dancers symbolize that of the traditional troops. Baris Gede is old. Most of the literature says that the dance was invented around the 8th century AD. And though the dance has been performed all around Bali for centuries, nobody has any idea who was the person who invented the moves.

Topeng Sidakarya

Actually, we can not really categorize Topeng Sidakarya (the Mask of Sidakarya) as a dance. This sacred show features one person in a mask of Sidakarya who, besides dancing, accompanied by a traditional Balinese musical ensemble, tell meaningful stories to the audience. Sidakarya himself was a Brahman from East Java who in the course of the Balinese mythical epoch once saved the island from a deadly plague. He was so great that everything he said became the reality. For the Balinese, the Mask of Sidakarya completes a spiritual ceremony, like the last paragraph of an article which concludes and gives meaning to every word the author has written on the previous parts of the composition. If you are longing for meaning, it is definitely a performance you should watch at least once in your lifetime.


Gambuh Theatrical Performance


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Each culture has a flagship art product which becomes the parenthesis of every other art subsequently invented. Bali is not an exception. The Island of Gods has Gambuh, a high-brow art show featuring various forms of arts—music, drama, dance, fine arts, literature, etc. Some people even argue that Gambuh is the origin of most of the wonderful Balinese dances which exist present days. Unfortunately, in order to understand what is going on during the play, you need to know at least a little bit of Balinese language—or a friend sitting beside you who speaks the language—because all of the lines of the dialogues are spoken in the Balinese language.

Legong Kraton

Before presented in public, Legong Kraton was only played within the palace (kraton). The dance is usually carried out by three teenage girls, 10-12 years old, who, while holding a fan—the traditional one, not the electric—follow the rhythm of gamelan. However, it is not merely a set of beautiful movements. (It will not be this wonderful if the moves of Legong Kraton were only conjured from thin air.) It contains fragments of the Balinese royal history. The history says that the public has been allowed to watch Legong Kraton since 1931 and it has played a certain role in promoting the tourism of Bali. If you are curious to see this dance with your own two eyes, you can watch it at Puri Agung Peliatan, Ubud.

Barong Ket

Barong is a Balinese mythical creature representing the good spirit. So every time, say, a village experiences bad things the Balinese perform the dance of Barong Ket to balance the spiritual atmosphere. The dance of Barong Ket features a Barong Ket which is moved according to the rhythms and tones of the Balinese traditional instruments, such as gamelan, traditional symbols, percussions, and flutes. Though it is basically a spiritual dance, nowadays Barong Ket is also presented to the tourists.

Joged Bumbung

Compared to all of the dances which have been featured above, Joged Bumbung, perhaps, is the most social. It was unarguably invented to amuse people. There is only one dancer, a girl. She moves beautifully and tries to find a dancing partner from the crowds. Of course, the dancer moves according to the music, which comes from a set of a bamboo instrument. Joged Bumbung is usually presented at the wedding party. Here’s a rule of thumb if you are curious to see the dance: like any other parts of the world, the wedding party in Bali is usually held on the weekends. So are you interested to watch those nine Balinese dances which have been recognized by the UNESCO above?