Travel the world

Balinese Trance Dance

When Carrie and I travel, we like to experience a place.  This means not just going to all the touristy spots, but also to some off-the-beaten-path kinds of places.

Bali warrants at least a month, but we’re only here a week, and wanting to see as much as possible.

And so we found ourselves watching a show which cost about $18 ($9 each) which was quite different for us. 

We had read the synopsis of the show over dinner, before coming to the show.

After reading the synopsis, we realized that we lacked the cultural background to know what was going on, but we thought we had the basic idea.

  • King has three daughters
  • King wants to marry off his three daughters.
  • King holds contest.
  • Warriors show up to compete for hand of the daughters.
  • One of the daughters is the fairest of them all.
  • Random guy comes and kidnaps fairest one of them all.
  • Random guy tells contestants who want her hand that they can come and get her if they want.
  • One warrior pursues, and rescues her.  But then accidentally kills her by shooting an arrow at her.
  • She curses him, and tells him she will come back to haunt him in a great war.
  • She does.  he dies.

Something like that is what we got from the synopsis.

But that was not really what we saw… at least not in our understanding of what we saw.

The show we saw was interesting, with about an hour of the taka taka taka taka taka taka type chant (video coming soon). 

However, it only very loosely followed the story we had understood from reading the synopsis.

At one point, this guy in white with the face of a monkey with fangs showed up.

He became a central character in the story. 

I don’t know what he symbolized or what he was about.

There was also a little child in the show, who was very cute and did some fun dancing, but I have no idea what his role was either.

The show concluded with a couple guys people dropping a bunch of coconut husks on the ground and lighting them on fire.

Then came a guy who appeared to go into some kind of a trance.

He started jumping through and dancing on the coals that had formed from the coconut husks being on fire.

At one point he chewed on one of the husks (still on fire) and blew live coals out of his mouth.

Two guys around him kept him from running into the audience, and kept sweeping the ashes back into a pile so that he could run through, and at one point sit down in, the burning embers.

When the show concluded, the lights came up.

But applause (from the mostly European audience) was reluctant to come. 

I think we all thought the show was good, but watching someone chew on live coals left everyone a bit shocked.  Not really understanding that the show had concluded (since it really didn’t follow the story line in the program in a way we could follow), made it a bit unclear that the show had actually concluded.

Overall, I thought it was a fascinating experience, and I’m glad to have gone.  I just wish I had understood what was going on.

But perhaps I would need more time spent understanding the culture and history of Bali before I would really understand the show.

In any case, the dancing was very stylized and interesting to watch.

The chanting was very unique and quite mesmerizing to hear.

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