The baris dance is one of the most complex of the Balinese dances, and the male equivalent of the legong. It’s an energetic traditional war dance performed by a solo male dancer, who embodies the characteristics of a triumphant warrior – anger, ferocity, pride, passion, courage and a hint of regret. The dancer must glorify his manhood largely through facial expressions, all the while in seamless communication with a gamelan orchestra which follows his moods.
Barong & Rangda
The Barong dance is often performed in the streets of Ubud as well as in temples, and is easily recognizable for the Barong Keket creature, a mythological, mischievous lion with unruly hair, large fangs, bulging eyes and a red face. The Barong is the protector of Balinese villages. He engages in battle with Rangda, an evil witch, and when he emerges victorious, harmony in the universe is restored.
The kecak dance was created in Bona, near Ubud, in the 1930s and is based on one of the stories from the Hindu Ramayana epic. With the help of the monkey god Hamunan, Prince Rama rescues his beautiful wife from the evil King Ravana.
The tale is narrated by at least 50 men, and normally more than 100, who sit bare-chested in a circle around a flame, chanting and waving their arms, and creating percussion through the slapping of their chests and thighs. The setting is simple and the power of the performance relies entirely upon the strength of the human voice. The chanting is utterly hypnotic and transcendent.
LegongThe Legong dance is the most elegant of the classical Balinese dances, and is performed solely by young girls between the ages of eight and twelve. Their faces are heavily painted, their eyebrows plucked and re-drawn, they wear frangipani in their hair and exquisite gold fabric wound so tightly around their waists as to almost prohibit movement.
Much of the dance centres around stylized hand, foot and eye movements, which move in time to the sounds of the gamelan. The eyes are particularly important and are expected to convey a range of emotions to enhance the narration of the story, which is based around the history of East Java in the early 12th century.
Sanghyang Trance Dance
The most common form of this trance dance is performed by two young girls with their eyes closed, who are lured into an altered state by chanting by both male and female choirs, and eventually fall to the ground. This dance was originally practiced to chase away evil spirits.
Another form of trance dance, the fire dance, features a boy dancing around and through fire on a horse made from the coconut palm.
Topeng is a masked dance that’s often performed at ceremonies to narrate historical local events as well as some contemporary ones, often as a form of moral education for children. A range of masks are used for different characters, the most popular being one where a solo male performer wears the mask of a very old man and brings his character to life. Because the face is hidden from sight, Topeng requires that the dancer expresses his character entirely through bodily movement and gesture.