Picture this: a bunch of Balinese men dancing around a ceremonial fire, wearing checkered cloths in monotone around their waist, chanting “cak” and dancing to the music produced by unanimous voices chanting along with them.
The popular Kecak dance, alternately spelled as Ketjak or Ketjack, is a ritual dance form created and popularized in the 1930s on the picturesque Bali Island. Although lore attributes the dance form to a German, the action, depicting a battle scene for the epic Ramayana, might suggest otherwise.
The drama unfolds on a circular ground, in a separate area intended especially for Kecak fire dance within Pura Tanah Lot, wherein the group of dancers give their performance. It starts post sunset (typically 6:30 PM) and comes across as a dramatic depiction as if you are watching a television series.
A hypnotic atmosphere almost always blankets onlookers, while the performers spark the dance with their energy and skill. A cappella chorus of dozens of men in their chequered sarongs stands in concentric circles, chanting cak-cak-cak in high and low tones (representing monkey troops).
Prince Rama and his wife Sita get banished from their kingdom following which they start living in the forest of Dandaka, along with brother Lakshamana. But soon Ravana, the king of Lanka kidnaps Sita using his wicked trick, which leads to a battle. The best moment however is when Hanuman (Rama’s envoy) comes to meet Sita but the demon catches him and orders to put his tail on fire. In turn Hanuman burns his Lanka (empire). The fireworks certainly change the mood of the atmosphere.
You can notice the sky going black with the sunset and its amazing to catch the changes in lighting while enjoying the narration. What makes the play unique is that it’s done without any background music, with just the male performers chanting in polyrhythmic choir.
We quite liked the expressions and drama with which the Balinese dancers were performing and the conviction in their storytelling made the performance par excellence. Everyone visiting Bali should book their tickets for Kecak Dance Uluwatu Temple or Pura Tanah lot for sure!
There are two venues perfect for watching the kecak dance: Pura Uluwatu and Pura Tanah Lot. We got a chance to watch the performance at any of the two the venues so we chose to see it at the Tanah Lot since it wasn’t heavily crowded on the day we visited.
There are other venues as well, where you can head for seeing the dance: Gianyar regency, GWK Cultural Park, and Batubalan. It is definitely going to become a highlight of your trip to Bali too, just like it became ours! 😉