The Monkey Dance

One of the main tourist activities in Ubud is to go and see one of the many cultural shows held each evening at various venues around town. Although normally fairly adverse to such things, we had heard good reviews and they were very reasonably priced, so we decided to partake.

DSC02433WThe show we chose was Kecak or “Monkey Dance” which is a combination of vocal music, dance and drama. The show took place on an incredibly atmospheric open area inside one of the temples. The candles everywhere really gave it an intimate and magical feel, although provided inadequate light to fully see some parts of the show.

DSC02402WThe performance began with the emergence of about 50 men traditionally dressed who sat down around a candelabra and proceeded to build a complicated chanting combination that involve many layers of a “cak, cak, cak” sound, the hallmark of Kecak.

DSC02409WHave a listen.

Kecak Chanting

Afterwards, the dramatic story line would have been completely lost to me if not for the interesting translation of the story that was handed out at the beginning of the show.

DSC02405WHowever, I really enjoyed the dramatic dance.

DSC02423WIt put particular emphasis on very unique and strong finger and wrist movements and footwork that looked like it took a great deal of muscle control.

DSC02411WThe women were absolutely stunning and the costumes were very elaborate.

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Some of them a little scary.

DSC02430WThis is my favorite shot.

DSC02428WThe finale of the presentation was the Sang Hyang Djaran or Trance Dance which serves to protect society from evil forces. A large pile of coconut shells were ignited in the center of the stage and allowed to smolder while the performers prepared. Shortly, a horserider who wore more than mounted a constructed horse with a great mane and tail that shook with his movements whirled himself into a trance moving to the repetitive rhythm of the vocal chorus.

DSC02446WDuring his reverie the horserider continually kicked at the coals with his feet sometimes sending them hurling under the chairs of the first and second rows of the audience.

DSC02442WThe effect was pretty spectacular as the strikes to the embers caused them to flare up and skid around.

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