Ubud is known is one of Bali’s art and cultural cities located amongst rice paddies in the central foothills. This is where the movie Eat, Pray, Love takes place. When the locals find out that I”m American the first thing they say is, “You know Julia Roberts? She come here for movie”. They are so proud that their little town of 30,000 people was featured in a blockbuster movie.
The first night I was there I bought a ticket to a Barong and Legong ance show. I was told that it was a must if I came here. All of the shows take place at beautiful temples (usually outdoors) and that first night I went to the Ubud Palace. I was mesmerized as soon as the show began. Men came out first and began to play music on all sorts of instruments that I have never seen before and it echoed from the rooftops of the temples. Then the dancers entered. They were dressed in brightly colored ornate saris and they commanded the presence of the audience, I could not keep my eyes off them. The dancing was like nothing I’ve ever seen. From the way they moved their heads to their eye movements, down to the intricate finger movements and they were all in unison. Remember the video “walk like an Egyptian” from the 1980s where they move their necks left and right? This is what they were doing but only 10 times faster and then they would bug out their eyes and move them left and right to the beat of the drums. The most intriguing was their finger movements, every finger had it’s own function and when they moved together they looked like they had a personality of their own. As an ex-ballerina I was impressed. As I watched them there was sweat dripping down my legs, arms and forehead, “how in the heck were they dancing so perfectly in these heavy costumes?”. It was definitely a sight to see. Needless to say I went to a show every night that I was here.
The following day I went to a Kecak dance. This is the story about Ramayana. Remember the book I read in India about the Hindu gods? Well this was it, I was pumped that I would see it in dance form! The music for this particular show was created by men singing acapella in a circle surrounding the stage. They would make a “cha” noise and they would all start at different times and with different tones so it sounded like instruments were being played but it was only their voices. the Kecak dance is also known as the fire dance and towards the end of the show, a man comes out in a trance and he walks through hot coals barefoot in a horse costume. Apparently he doesn’t feel a thing! The pictures are a bit hard to see since it was performed outside by candlelight.
The third night I went to see another Barong dance but this time the music was performed by an all-female group. I loved this performance because some of the dancers were chubby but you would never know because their costumes hid it. I love it!Check out the stage of the temple, no prop-designs needed here! For all you dancers out there, wouldn’t you love to perform on a stage that looked like this!