SYNOPSIS:  It was a day of grading and rest day today…  About the sounds of Bali.  And about a dance performance.

Today it wasn’t the sound of the muezzin that had gotten me up at 4:30 every morning so far;  it was one of a half dozen or so neighborhood roosters that decided to fill in at just about the same time right outside my window.   Soon the roosters were joined by one of the Spitzes from the neighborhood — don’t hold me to any kind of brand, but in Germany we tend to call any small, ever yelping dog a Spitz — and it was clear that the night was over.

It was also clear that even though I was only a few hundred kilometers further east, I had entered a new world:  the world of Hindu Bali.  In this world dogs are part of daily life, which is not the case in the Muslim parts of Indonesia or for that matter, the world. 

For me, it was time for another day of grading…

It coincided well with my need to slow down for a bit as I had picked up a nasty head cold.  Of all things!  One is supposed to have stomach problems around here, but in that department I am doing fine.

By the end of the day I mustered enough energy to head down main street towards the tourist information in pursuit of a performance schedule.  In Ubud, part of my mission is to observe as many different dance, puppet or music performances as I can get a hold of.  And it looks like I am in luck:  there is something every day.  Not just one performance but there are choices.  I am in the right place!

Tonight I chose a combination of Barong and Legong Dance. 

Legong is perhaps the most typical and most graceful of all the Indonesian dances.  Female dancers are dressed in tight, almost corset-like costumes with elaborate head-dresses and extensive makeup.  Eye movements, fingers and slow body movements convey a variety of emotions and events.  Overall, the story seems to boil down (loosely based on the Ramayana) to the basic plot of:  Maiden in distress is rescued and good forces win over evil ones leaving a few people, heroes or demons dead along the way. 

The show was accompanied by a full traditional gamelan orchestra of over 20 musicians seated on the floor along the sides of a relatively small stage.  The outdoor setting for the performance was the courtyard of the Ubud Palace, into which a good 200 spectators were squeezed sitting and standing without any particular care for any seating arrangement.  If you were early, you were lucky and grabbed a chair.  Later, you might have to make do with a tree trunk, the floor, a veranda or just lean against the walls of the palace.      

While the Legong is somewhat serious, the Barong seems to be more of a comic interlude.  Barong is a mythical creature, a sort of oversized, fluffy dog reminiscent of a lion played by two men buried under the furry fluff.  The Barong is a good-natured animal that brings luck to a village and wards off evil.  At times in performances, it is paired with an evil witch.  In our case, he encountered a monkey and the two had some good-natured fun with each other and the audience.  At one point, the monkey prayed on an unsuspecting blond, tourist girl in the audience whom he chose to pluck off a few “fleas” from her head.  The Barong snapped his jaws at young spectators in an attempt to scare them and ultimately he rolled along on the stage with the monkey in a mock battle.  Costumes and gamelan backdrop made this indeed an enjoyable spectacle.

In the evening, temperatures cool down from 30+ degrees Celsius to a comfortable 20+ degrees.  Still, it is humid, but breezy.  And surprisingly, there don’t seem to be any mosquitoes. 

Lighting of the performance left much to be desired.  I either found myself in direct opposition to a bright stage light or half the performers were left in the dark…  If you really are interested in a performance of this sort, I bet you could google good examples.  My snapshots are just for the record…

Good night. 

5 comments so far

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  1. I am running way behind on your blogs for we have just returned from a ‘”bouquet” of weddings, one in upper New York state that was a Hindu/Christian celebration and I stepped in and danced among all of the beautiful saris and have only a hint of what the dances were telling. I also now have my own statue of Ganesh, god of new beginnings, who has served you well as you travel all over the world .

  2. Good-on-ya Vanessa (as the Aussies say),

    He was beginning to get under my fingernails too!


  3. Dear Carl, I’m beginning to feel like you’re an internet troll who has nothing but nasty things to say about other cultures. Give it a break already! We know how you feel, we know what you don’t like.

  4. News from Indonesia:
    Ramadan in Indonesia: 4 Muslims jailed for plot to blow up Buddhist temple

  5. Why no dogs in the Muslim areas? Because Muhammad did not like dogs. As a result, Islamic law considers dogs to be ritually unclean like pigs, urine, feces and women.