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ATTRACTIONS

Dance & Drama

Dance and drama have historically played an important role in Balinese society. Through this medium, people learned about the tales of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other epic stories from Balinese history. The following are brief descriptions of some of the more well know dance dramas that can be see at regular performance, 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; the dancers try to portray the full range of emotions displayed by a warrior - anger, courage, ferocity and passion. This dance requires great skill, with the artist having to display the whole range of inner emotions mainly through facial expression.

BARONG & RANGDA
This is basically story about the struggle between good and evil. Good is personified by the Barong Keket, a strange, fun loving creature in the shape of a shaggy semi lion. Evil is represented by Rangda, a witch. Ultimately the two characters engage in battle at which point the Barong's keris-bearing followers rush in to attack Rangda. The witch, however, uses her magical powers to turn the keris knives in, upon their owners, who fall into a trance and start trying to stab themselves. The Barong then uses magic to protect his followers from the knives. In the end, the barong triumph and rangda retreats to recuperate her strength for the next encounter. All that remains is for a priest to help the keris dancers out of their trance with the help of a little holy water. The barong and rangda dance is a very powerful performance and is definitely not taken lightly by those involved.

KECAK
The most famous of the Balinese dances, the Kecak, originated from the Sanghyang dance choirs, who chant a distinctive "kechak-kechak" accompaniment. The Kecak, as a dance, developed in the 1930's, in the village of Bona, where it is still performed regularly. The theme is taken from Ramayana and tells the story of Rama, who, with the help of the monkey army, tries to rescue his wife from the clutches of the evil King Rawana. This is a very exciting dance to watch and is performed by a large group of chanting men sitting in a circle, waving their arms and swaying to and fro in time with the chants.

LEGONG
This dance tell the story of Princess Rangkesari who is held captive against her will by King Lakesmi. Rangkesari's brother, Prince Daha, gathers an army together to rescue his sister. Rangkesari then tries to persuade the king to let her go and avoid a war but he refuses. On his way to battle Daha is attacked by a raven, a bad omen, and is later killed in battle. The dance only takes the story up to the point where the king departs for battle and is performed by three people, two Legongs and their attendant, the Condong. The Legong is a very classical and graceful dance and is always performed by pre-pubescent girls, often as young as eight or nine years old.

SANGHYANG TRANCE DANCES
The Sanghyang is a divine force that enters the bodies of the entranced dancers. There are a number of Sanghyang dances but the most common are the Sanghyang Dedari and the Sanghyang Jaran.
The Sanghyang Dedari is performed by two girls and is very similar in style to the Legong, the main difference being that these girls are supposedly untrained and furthermore they keep in perfect time with each other even though their eyes are firmly shut. The accompanying music is provided by a female choir and a male Kecak choir.
In the Sanghyang Jaran a boy dances around and through a fire riding a kind of coconut palm hobby-horse. This is frequently called the 'Fire Dance' for the sake of tourists. In both dances, a priest is always on hand to help bring the dancers out of their trance-state at the end of the performance.

TOPENG (MASK DANCE)
In Bali, masks are considered sacred objects and revered as such. The best ones are traditionally carved on auspicious days and the dancers who wear them are believed to be possessed by the spirits of the masks. Characters can be identified from the shape of the feature; noble characters always wear full, refined masks while evil is represented by bulging eyes and garish colours. The characters are silent but communicate using complex gesture of the hand, head and body. The story lines usually follow popular myths or episodes from history.

WAYANG KULIT
Wayang Kulit (Shadow puppet) is one of the great story-telling traditions of the Javanese and Balinese. The Wayang show normally consists os a small 4 pieces orchestra, which provides the musical accompaniment, around 60 or so 'puppets' carved out of flat pieces of water buffalo hide, and the Dalang or Pupper-master. The Dalang has to be both incredibly skilled as well as knowledgeable. He not only manipulates all the puppets but has to provide a different 'voice' for each one. With good characters normally speaking in ancient 'Kawi' and evil or coarse characters speaking Balinese, the Dalang, therefore, has to be fluent in both languages.
Although traditional dramas cover a wide variety of themes, the most popular are stories taken from the Mahabharata.



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