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Watching a Kecak Dance

October 11, 2010 —

The day manager at Khrisna Guesthouse, Nyoman, had recommended that I go to see a traditional Balinese dance while in Ubud. The most popular one, and one that is actually pretty traditional, and the one Nyoman recommended, is the Kecak dance. It takes place in temples, after sunset and involves a group of men and boys who act as the musical instrument and choir during the performance. They sit in a circle around a big candela and make a chak-a-chak-a-chak noise in unison and separately, sometimes quiet and sometimes much louder, supposedly imitating a group of monkeys (monkeys also plays a valuable role in the story).

Kecak Dance Kecak Dance

There are three parts to the dance, with the first part's story being pretty familiar to me. At least one of my sisters (I can't remember if both of them), used to watch the movie A Little Princess all the time when she/they were younger. So I've also seen it more than once, enough times that I can remember most of the story. Well, the girl was in India, and so recounts the famous Hindu epic, Ramayana; the story of how Princess Sita is kidnapped and then Prince Rama must free her with the help of a monkey general and his monkey soldiers (for some reason I'm picturing the people in the story as being blue). Anyways, knowing the story definitely helped for me to know what was going on in the show since there is only dancing and the "choir" making noises.

Kecak Dance Kecak Dance

The second part of the show is a segment where the choir sits behind two young girls who dance. What's special about what these girls do is that they dance for about 10 minutes, in unison, with their eyes closed the whole time. If they open their eyes before the dance is done, they bring bad luck to the village (or something like that). This was really impressive to watch. Talk about coordination and practice.

Fire Tornado Fire Tornado

Then the third part, I'm convinced, was designed for tourists. They light a bunch of coconut husks on fire, and then a guy riding around a stick horse kicks the husks around, all the while running over them with his bare feet. Then two guys rake the husks into a pile, and the horseman does it again. They repeat maybe 5 times before the guys with rakes decide the horseman needs to stop undoing their work, "capture" him, and then remove his horse (take his stick away). The whole show was pretty entertaining and something I'd recommend.

Firewalking Firewalking

Later, I watched the Anthony Bourdain No Reservations: Indonesia episode again to make sure I didn't miss anything while I'm here. Turns out I hadn't ever seen the last of the episode; the part where Tony goes to see a Kecak dance. I was unknowingly following even further in his footsteps this trip after hitting up Ibu Oka. That definitely validated the dance more in my eyes.