Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Barong Dance

By way of the "Little Travelers: Bali" DVD, my girls had already become well acquainted with Balinese dance. They think Balinese dancers are beautiful (they are!) and a Bali dance was at the top of our list of things to do once we arrived. There are several traditional dances, but one of the most common is the Barong Dance. The Barong Dance tells a classic story of good vs. evil.

"The story goes that Rangda, the mother of Erlangga, the King of Bali in the tenth century, was condemned by Erlangga's father because she practiced black magic. After she became a widow, she summoned all the evil spirits in the jungle, the leaks and the demons, to come after Erlangga. A fight occurred, but she and her black magic troops were too strong that Erlangga had to ask for the help of Barong. Barong came with Erlangga's soldiers, and fight ensued. Rangda casted a spell that made Erlangga soldiers all wanted to kill themselves, pointing their poisoned keris into their own stomachs and chests. Barong casted a spell that turned their body resistant to the sharp keris. At the end, Barong won, and Rangda ran away." -

We asked our the front desk at our hotel to provide us a driver the next morning so that we could catch a performance (there are morning and evening performances almost every day). We drove maybe 20 minutes before arriving at the performance location and after we'd gotten our tickets, we ran into this an old Balinese man playing a traditional instrument. The girls quickly jumped to his side to try them out for themselves.

Then, when we heard some music starting, we headed back to the seating area for the performance. We were greeted by a beautiful Balinese dancer, who was putting a flower in everyone's hair. My girls were starry-eyed as they walked up to her.

They said this moment was their FAVORITE part of the trip.
There was music being played as people arrived, and when the seats were filled, the performance began. The first thing to pop out on stage was a tiger. Our kids were captivated.

The tiger and a monkey.

Like I said, they were captivated.
The best part of the dance was the lovely Balinese dancers pictured below. THIS was what my kids thought of when they thought of Bali, and the dances are so interesting. As you can see from the picture, most of the story is told through the eyes and fingers.

"Bali dancers learn the craft as children from their mothers as soon as they are born, in the womb they are played the Balinese music and are taught to dance with their hands before they can walk. Official training as a Bali dancer starts as young as 7. In Balinese dance the movement is closely associated with the rhythms produced by the gamelan, a musical ensemble specific to Java and Bali.[5] Multiple levels of articulations in the face, eyes, hands, arms, hips, and feet are coordinated to reflect layers of percussive sounds." - Wikipedia

Do I think everyone should go see a Balinese dance? Definitely. It's something unique that you'll only find on this tiny island in Indonesia, and it plays a major role in Balinese culture. However, that being said, if you have kids, be prepared. We were unaware that the Barong dance included a piece where hunters kill a monkey in the forest and then proceed to play with and make fun of the monkey's... um... genitalia. Thank goodness our kids didn't have much of an idea of what was going on - afterall, we don't have any sons! In addition, the end of the dance has all these men trying to stab Barong, then trying to stab themselves, and finally dying at the finale. If you have sensitive kids, you might need to prep them beforehand. We had to remind ours that it was just pretend and no one was actually getting hurt.

She picked up quite a few dance moves....
All in all, it was a great hour-long performance. We felt like this was a uniquely Balinese experience and despite all the killing at the end (ha), my girls still say that their favorite part of the trip was the Bali dance. And they frequently break out in "Barong dance" even after returning home.

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