|The stage prior to the performance|
After walking around the temple, it was time to go to one of the main reasons we came to this temple specifically- the Kecak dance performance. Kecak is a very interesting form of chanting/singing that involves about 50 bare-chested men in checkered skirts. Balinese music is all very multi-textural so they chant the word “cak” at different rhythms and times in order to create a very interesting sound and enough rhythm with which to dance. I just thought we would be seeing the kecak noise makers dance around in formation, but what we ended up seeing was a version of the Ramayana which is a traditional Hindu story about the gods Rama and Sita. Rama and Sita are in love and Rama sees a deer and goes after it to hunt it, leaving Sita in the forest by herself. She is captured by the evil Ravana and taken away. Rama realizes this and enlists the monkey king and his white monkey servant with magical powers to save Sita. Sita is saved and Ravana is killed. The end. That’s the synopsis.
|The evil Ravana- Scary dude!|
|Ravana parades around with Sita on his shoulders, all the while the sun is setting beautifully into the ocean|
After Ravana leaves, the dancers rested for a moment in this interesting interwoven pattern. I was thinking they would need an intermission or something because they were literally chanting the entire time, but nope! Just little rest breaks here and there when one person would have a solo, and they powered through the whole performance… super impressive!
I got confused around this point. I think the guy in the red checkered skirt is the king of the monkeys, who sends the white monkey to rescue Sita. The guys on the right of the picture above work for the evil king, and tie the white monkey up and try to burn him. It all would have made much more sense if we had received the paper with the synopsis of the play in English so that we could follow along a bit and understand it as we were seeing it. As it were, we saw it and then read the synopsis later to kind of grasp what was going on!
|Poor white monkey is all tied up and about to be burnt up!|
|Don’t worry kids! He escapes and actually kicked these flaming balls of twigs around the stadium.|
The fire part of the dance was the coolest. They took the big centerpiece out of the ring, the kecak performers were further away from each other than ever, but the chanting was very intense because monkey was about to get burnt up. At the last moment, he breaks free and kicked all of these flaming balls of twigs around the stage. Some of the kecak performers had brooms to sweeps the embers away from their bare legs, and make sure a fire did not start during this part of the show. The white monkey was very brave and jumped in the circle of fire and out of it several times.
And now, for all the brave readers who would like to see a ten minute video of Kecak chant and Balinese dance, here is a video compilation of different aspects of the performance. If you want to skip to the good stuff, go to around minute 9 to see the white monkey pay us a visit!