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Kecak Dance in Bali, Indonesia
Written by Ashwin S P on May 26, 2020 Share on

Kecak Dance Bali – A Traditional Balinese Dance Based On Ramayana

Bali Kecak dance is a traditional Balinese Hindu dance and music drama based on the story of Ramayana and is traditionally performed in the temple and villages across Bali. The dance was developed as an art in the 1930s in the village of Bona, Gianyar, Indonesia. Kecak is a music that is a composition of mixed sounds which are used to accompany the sacred dance Sanghyang. Kecak dance is performed by more than 150 dancers wearing checked clothes around their waist, chanting “chak” and moving their hands and arms. The performance depicts a battle from the mighty Ramayana, in which Vanaras, a group of monkeys led by Hanuman, help Rama fight the evil King Ravana.

Kecak dance in Bali
Image credits: Google images

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The Evolution of Bali Kecak Dance

Since 1970’s the Kecak Dance in Bali has continuously evolved and developments can be noticed in terms of story and staging. From the story point of view, Kecak Dance which was sticking to one part of Ramanaya has now moved to other parts of the story for staging and in terms of staging, Kecak dance started to experience growth in other villages across Bali other than the village of Bona, Gianyar where it originated. This dance is often organized by the government or the school of art in Bali. In 1979 its was recorded that the Kecak Fire Dance was performed by 500 dancers depicting the story of Mahabharata and this record was broken in September 29, 2006, by Tabanan regency government at an event organised at Tanah Lot, Tabanan, Bali with more than 5000 dancers performing. 

The Pattern of the Bali Kecak Dance

The Kecak Dance is usually performed by around fifty to hundred men wearing a single piece of cloth wrapped around the hip leaving their upper bodies bare by forming concentric circles. There would be a traditional Balinese coconut oil lamp placed in the middle of the circular formation. As a first step, they move their bodies systematically to the left and to the right chanting “chak ke-chak ke-chak ke-chak” periodically,  in a slow rhythm. Gradually as the rhythm speeds up by turns the dancers lift their hands into the air.

Dancers have different sounds to chant, some of the male characters chant chak-chak-chak and the individual responsible for maintaining the rhythm of chat by chanting “po-po-po-po”. Another man who is the leader of the chorus would instruct them to stop or start the chanting by yelling command such as “Diih!”, “Chiaaat!”, etc. In addition to chanting, there is also a man who is responsible for singing while chanting and sings melodious tone in accordance to the situation of the dance with vocal such as “Shiiir-yang-ngger-yang-nggur-yang-nggeer”. Dalang, known as the narrator would narrate the story during the dance, usually in Balinese and Sanskrit. Since the main priority is the storyline and the sound mix for Kecak Dance, the gestures of the dancer are more relaxed. 

An artist in Kecak Dance
Image credits: Pixabay

Many tourists visit Bali to witness this glorified Kecak dance which displays the art and cultural skills of the Balinese. You can check out Bali tours at Pickyourtrail or customize your own itinerary and head to the island of gods. Download the Pickyourtrail App and start planning your trip to Bali right away!


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