Get into the rous­ing spirit of the ‘ke­cak’ dance.

BACK­DROP FOR THE ‘ KE­CAK’ DANCE

The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Contents - Words An­ton Muha­jir

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.

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