Get into the rousing spirit of the ‘kecak’ dance.
BACKDROP FOR THE ‘ KECAK’ DANCE
As the sun set over Uluwatu cliff, around 800 spectators sat encircling the round stage eager to observe the famous Uluwatu kecak dance that was about to start.
The audience of hundreds was a sea of faces from various nationalities – Indonesian, Chinese, Korean, European, Middle Eastern — and the sounds of different languages filled the air as the anticipation rose.
Right at 6 p.m., around 70 barechested dancers entered the stage; a priest dressed fully in white sprinkled tirta (holy water) and chanted prayers for the soon-to-start dance.
Through their body movements and facial expressions, the dancers started to relate the colossal story of the Ramayana.
While performances of the Ramayana story can be found in traditional Balinese dance in other places on the island, including Kesiman in Denpasar and Batubulan in Gianyar, none of them can beat the exoticism of a kecak dance some 50 meters above sea level on Uluwatu cliff, with the sunset and surround-sound of the breaking waves as its backdrop.
The kecak dance in Uluwatu presented four episodes of the love story of Rama and Shinta, the evil king Rahwana who kidnapped Shinta, and the helpful Laksamana who assisted Rama in saving Shinta. In one full hour the story was told through the dynamic movements of the dancers – a mixture of supple, mellow, funny, upbeat and intense movements, and their continuous acapella melodic chants.
The presence of figures such as Hanoman, Delem and Lenda-lendi, who performed fresh and multilingual jokes in Balinese, Indonesian, English and even Chinese, added more color to the Uluwatu presentation.
The monkey king Hanoman confidently occupied a seat among the spectators, while joking and taking photographs with his fans, his interactivity adding another dimension to the Uluwatu experience.
But the fun came to an end and was soon replaced by suspense when Hanoman was surrounded by a circle of fire. He played with the fireballs, kicking some of them to the spectators who screamed in surprise and fear. At the end of the story, Hanoman managed to break free from the fire circle and rescue the goddess Shinta. The fire continued to light up the area in the emerging darkness as the sun wholly set over the cliff.
The Uluwatu kecak dance is well worth watching and can be enjoyed daily at Uluwatu Temple in Uluwatu village, except on religious Balinese holidays such as Galungan, Kuningan and Nyepi.
“In one full hour the story was told through the dynamic movements of the dancers
– a mixture of supple, mellow, funny, upbeat and intense movements, and their
continuous acapella melodic chants.”
Located about one hour by car from Kuta, the temple is reachable by Trans Sarbagita feeder minibuses from Kelan, Tubanand Garuda Wisnu Kencana stops.
Local visitors are charged Rp 70,000 and foreigners Rp 100,000 to watch the show, which starts at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, entrance fee to the temple is Rp 15,000 for locals and Rp 20,000 for foreigners.
Uluwatu temple is not only a revered center for prayer and religious ceremonies, it is also famous for the beauty of its temple clinging to the cliff. As a sacred site, visitors are required to wear proper attire. The temple management provides free sarong and long shawls on loan for visitors who need them.