A Day of Dance in Bali

We awake to a simple but beautifully presented breakfast

of fresh fruit, freshly squeezed orange and papaya juice and eggs, toast, and banana pancakes. We eat alfresco, with views of the morning rice field stretching out in front of us.

John heads up to the internet café—there are lots in Ubud, and unfortunately, all have dial-up connections. After a little delay in getting up and running, he is set to go. I “head” out in search of a haircut. This is a relatively easy task as there are “salons” every 30 metres or so, all offering massage, pedicures, massage or massage. Anita from Java seems to be running the show here and after a chorus of “hello, massage?” from the other girls in the shop, I step in and point to my head and shape my fingers into scissors, the international signal for a haircut. They are having a sale today, so everything is 10% off. We agree on a price of 25,000 rp. The normal is 35,000 rp. After a good cut, a lovely hair wash, and a mini-massage, I guilt myself out and tell them that the standard price of 35,000 rp is okay with me and gladly pay them. It is, after all, only $6 CDN. John’s hour-long internet session is was a mere 6,000 rp or $1. CDN!

Temple Dancing

We head back to our hotel, and John opts for some pool time, and I decide to head up to the Ubud Market. Lots of touts touting their wares and I tire quickly of the sun and their haggling. I head across the street, following the strains of the typical Balinese temple music and find myself at the Palace watching traditional dancing classes. These kids are obviously here after school and are so darn cute. I watch the little ones for a while and then move across the courtyard to the older girls and their teacher. They certainly mean business and we will see the fruits of their labours later this evening. Across the street are the boys, and their dance master is a lot more rigid with his teaching. He is carrying a large stick that he keeps time on the floor with and occasionally uses to prop up or correct one of the boys. It is very obvious that the girls are a lot more dedicated (and talented) than the boys are. But there are a few that stand out from the others.

The Conquest of Good Over Evil

We head out this evening to attend the Balinese Frog dance presentation at one of the temples up the street from us but find the temple in complete darkness. Ahhh, Bali. Sometimes there is a ceremony, sometimes not. We quickly decide to head for dinner and a leisurely stroll home afterward. Not two blocks away we stumble upon another temple, the Padang Tegal, presenting the Kecak and Fire Dance. We purchase our tickets for the 1.5-hour performance and arrive at our seats about ten minutes in. We are sitting in a big u shape facing one of the temple doors, which serves to frame the performance beautifully. The small crescent moon and a tag-along star are just rising over the Padang. It is very magical. These dances involve much storytelling, and interpretation and space don’t allow me to describe everything. The first was about the fight between good and evil involving conflicts between the Golden Deer and the King of the Monkeys. Our favourite was the middle dance which is called the Sanghyang Dedari Dance and involves a ritual cleansing by driving evil spirits away from the village. It is a trance ceremony where two underage girl dancers who are virgins and considered holy are inhabited by a divine spirit and dance until they drop. They move simultaneously and with their eyes closed the entire time. Each time they fall to the ground, two female members of the village stand them up again, and they continue. When this is over, they are removed from the trance by the pemangku, or priest, who prays beside them and blesses them with holy water. The 3rd dance involved a horse that dances on a bonfire.

A full day of dance. Fascinating indeed.

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