Dance and theatrical performances are a longstanding tradition, a treasured form of expression, and an essential part of Balinese culture. For travelers who want to gain a greater understanding of the rituals, customs, and spiritual beliefs of the people of this Indonesian isle, here are a few of the must-see performances in Bali.
One of Bali’s most well-known dances, Barong tells a tale of good versus evil. Barong (the mythological spirit that represents good) faces off against Rangda (a mythological monster representing evil). The figures take different forms—sometimes a lion, other times a dragon or a monkey—depending on the region where the performance takes place. The dance is typically accompanied by gamelan music performed by a percussive ensemble.
Also known as the monkey dance, kecak dances chronicle the story of the ancient Sanskrit epic poem Ramayana, which tells of a prince’s quest to rescue his wife, who has been kidnapped by a demon king. The dance, most famously performed at sunset at Uluwatu Temple, usually features a troupe of chanting male dancers. Torches are often incorporated, creating a striking image against the darkening sky.
Performed at Bali Nusa Dua theater, the Devdan Show tells the story of two children who learn about the magic of Indonesian culture after discovering a treasure chest full of traditional objects, from weapons to headwear. Acrobats, aerial dancers, and colorfully costumed performers bring the audience on a cultural tour of the Indonesian archipelago, from Papua to Java and beyond. Though it incorporates traditional items, costumes, and concepts, the Devdan Show puts a modern twist on Indonesian culture.