Dance and drama have played a historically important role in Balinese society. Through this medium, people learned about the tales of the Ramayana, Mahabarata and of other epic stories from Balinese history. The following are brief descriptions of some of the more well-known dance-dramas that can be seen at regular performances throughout Bali.
Baris – This is a warrior’s dance. It is usually performed by men, either solo or in a group of five or more.
Barong & Rangda – This is a story about the struggle between good and evil. Good is personified by the Barong Keket, a strange but funloving creature in the shape of a shaggy semi-lion. Evil is represented by Rangda, a witch.
Kecak – The most famous of the Balinese dances, originated from the Sanghyang dance choirs, holds its uniqueness in the entrancing ‘Kecak, kecak’ chant. The Kecak as a dance developed in the 1930s, in the village of Bona, where it is still performed regularly.
Legong – This dance tells a story of princess Rangkesari being held captive by King Lakesmi. Rangkesari’s brother, prince Daha, gathers an army to rescue his sister. The Legong is a very classical and graceful dance, always performed by prepubescent girls, who can be as young as eight or nine years old.
Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet) – Wayang Kulit is one of the great story-telling traditions of the Javanese and Balinese people. The wayang show usually consists of a small four-piece orchestra, which provides the musical accompaniment, around sixty ‘puppets’, carved out of flat pieces of water buffalo hide, and the dalang or puppet-master. The good characters speak in ancient ‘Kawi’, whereas the evil or coarse ones speak Balinese.
Devdan Show – If you want to see the richness and diversity of Bali and Indonesia’s cultural expressions, then make sure you’re booked for the spectacular Devdan Show’s “Treasure of the Archipelago” at the Bali Nusa Dua Theatre. The breathtaking 90-minute show will take you on a tour of the rich Indonesian landscape, from Bali to Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Papua via beautiful and magnificent acrobatic and traditional dances paired with remarkable stage effects that will take you on a journey to a different world. Performances are 4 times a week, every week. Ph. _62 361 770 197 Ext 119. www.devdanshow.com.
Calonarang – The Calonarang dance tells the tale of a widow queen, Walunateng Dirah from Girah village who possessed the ability to conduct powerful black magic. Her powers were said to be stronger than the King Erlangga’s, causing fear among all that nobody would dare to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage. The widow, furious, placed a curse on the entire land and people began to die without reason, which caused a state-wide war. The King then sought the help of a Priest, Mpu Bharadah, who defeated Calonarang with his white magic.
Ramayana – The Ramayana dance tells the epic love story of Rama and Sita whose love was too strong to be torn apart. Expect exciting scenes of treachery among the royal family, lost-in-the-jungle scenes, kidnappings, brave rescue missions by Hanoman the Monkey King, and a romantic ending where Rama is forever reunited with his love, Sita.