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Ubud - Dances

After a tough day spending money, there's nothing like a little cultural event to make the evening complete. We spent two nights at different dance performances in Ubud - fascinating events under the skies! As far as writing up many of their details, Wikipedia has good information about all the dances we saw in Bali.  Cutting and pasting makes sure readers get all the details they need and want :) 

Hand positions and gestures are important in Javanese and Balinese dance; hands have a typically ornamental role and emphasize the dance's delicate intricacy.

In Balinese dance the movement is closely associated with the rhythms produced by the gamelan, a musical ensemble specific to Java and Bali. Multiple levels of articulations in the face, eyes, hands, arms, hips, and feet are coordinated to reflect layers of percussive sounds.

Legong is one form of Balinese dance. It is a refined dance form characterized by intricate finger movements.

Barong is a character in the mythology of Bali. He is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good, and enemy of Rangda in the mythological traditions of Bali. Banas Pati Rajah is the fourth "brother" or spirit child that accompanies a child throughout life. Banas Pati Rajah is the spirit which animates Barong. A protector spirit, he is often represented by a lion, and traditional performances of his struggles against Rangda are popular parts of Balinese culture. He's the Snuffleupagus-like figure on the far right above.

Kecak is a form of Balinese music drama, originated in the 1930s and is performed primarily by men. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece, performed by a circle of 100 or more performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting "cak" and throwing up their arms, depicts a battle from the Ramayana where the monkey-like Vanara helped Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana.
These guys were particularly impressive to us, mostly because of their rhythmic, repeating chants. Check them out in action below:
The story was one we had heard often in India, but told with a very definite East Asia flavor
Ram and Sita had to battle the forces of evil during their 14 years of exile
And in the end, it was the appearance of Hanuman and his legions of monkeys that saved the day!

But then, when the pile of coconut husks was lit on fire, we knew we were in for a treat!

Kecak has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance.  At the end of the performance, a man "rode" out on a horse and walked through red-hot coals!

It was pretty impressive to see, especially as the coals got swept up and re-walked through 4 or 5 times!

ARMA is a museum in Ubud that supports all the traditional arts of Bali.  Here, young children learn how to play traditional instruments and dance. This was on a later afternoon walk, and it was pretty fun to imagine them being the dancers of the future! We also had a chance to catch a very different glimpse at one of the roles women play in modern Balinese life...
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