Drawing on Traditions – Kecak Dance in Uluwatu

Kecak dance is said to have its origins in trance rituals of Bali. This was combined with music and dance that is an integral part of Balinese life and a dance drama performed by a group of men, based on the epic Ramayana was born. Originally a men only dance, it is performed by about 50 to 150 men with bare upper bodies wearing checked sarongs, sitting in concentric circles swaying in a trance like rhythmic manner who throw up their arms, stand and lie prone in unison, chanting ‘chak a chak a chak’ to the accompaniment of the gamelan suara as they depict various scenes from the Ramayana. The voice of the narrator rise high above the chanting explaining the unfolding drama. Many dance troops now incorporate female dancers for the lead roles and have the central figures of the drama decked out in gorgeous costumes and body paint. The lead actor dances in the middle of the ring of dancers acting out various incidents of the epic while the dancer’s movements make interesting patterns even coiling and uncoiling like a giant snake. The chant sets the dance apart as well as giving it its name. Starwood hotels and resorts in Indonesia are found in several major cities and holiday destinations throughout the country making in easy to travel to Indonesia.

The Kecak dance was specially developed for western audiences with the assistance of Wayan Limbak a popular Indonesian traditional dance exponent whose advice was sought to popularize the dance and to preserve the essential cultural elements that make it special. The dance always starts in the reddish glow of a tropical sunset and extends into the night lit only by torches that enhance its dramatic quality, giving it a primeval air. Pura Luhul Uluwatu perched high up on a crag by the ocean is where visitors can catch this dramatic dance performance every day at 6 pm, in one of the most dramatic settings.

Pushpitha Wijesinghe is an experienced independent freelance writer. He specializes in providing a wide variety of content and articles related to the travel hospitality industry.


Kecak Dance – A Soulful Performance Narrating a Legendary Story

A type of Balinese music drama and dance, Kecak Dance began in the 1930s. The soul of Balinese is reflected by woodcarving, painting and dancing. One of the most famous Balinese dances, the uniqueness of this dance is the use of no musical accompaniment. A chanting ‘monkey’ chorus produces the rhythm of the dance.
Performed mainly by men, this dance is also referred to as the Ramayana Monkey Chant. The dance involves a circle of over 100 performers dressed in checked cloth, throwing their arms up and chanting “cak”, as a depiction of a battle from the Ramayana.
Ramayana is an Indian story revolving around Rama, a warrior and a rightful heir to the throne of Ayodya. He and his wife Sita are exiled to a faraway desert, where an evil king falls in love with Sita and sends a golden deer to lure away Rama. Once Sita is captured, Rama has to round up his armies to defeat the evil king and his armies, in order to rescue Sita. Kecak Dance performs this story quite impressively.
Having roots in an exorcism dance called Sanghyang, these traditional dances are performed on Hindu holidays in particular. The performers dressed in checked clothes are both the choir and suppliers of music for the story. The series of their continuous vocal chants change according to the mood of the actors. These men in the circle actively add to the performance’s allure by waving their arms to replicate fire and relocate themselves encircling the stage to symbolize wind as the story develops. The voices of the storytellers can be heard distinctly amongst the swaying masses.
However it was Walter Spies, a German musician and painter living in Bali, who became very interested in this dance and managed to recreate it into a drama. It was his idea to base it on the story of Ramayana.
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