Dance Into The Fire
DESTINATION: BALI, INDONESIA
Losing yourself in the unique traditions of an entirely different culture is often the true magic of travel. In Indonesia, you can find that immersive experience at the southwestern tip of Bali’s Bukit Peninsula where an evocative performance of the Kecak Dance draws from both the local ancient Balinese culture and a nod to Hinduism, as well. As the copper-tinged sun begins to set, the journey begins along the cliff-side paths of exotic Uluwatu until you finally reach the stage of a Balinese temple glowing in the night—dramatically framed by the awe-inspiring backdrop of the roaring Indian Ocean far below.
In the glimmering light, bare-chested Balinese men begin their performance of the Kecak Dance with rhythmic chanting as they sway their arms in harmony to the percussive sound of their collective voices. A cadre of flamboyant actors swathed in colorful garments appear in the center of this human ring and bring the ancient story of Ramayana alive once more. Their dramatic gestures and dissonant voices tell the tale of a brave prince overcoming mythic obstacles and battling an evil king. As the fire flickers off the backs of the dancers, fragmented shadows play across the enchanted audience—awestruck by the remarkable experience of this Balinese Agama tradition that so vividly conjures ghosts from the past.
The Uluwatu Temple is perched on the cliffs of Kuta South, Badung—one of many rare jewels in the chain of sea temples perched around Bali. According to local lore, each temple is visible to the next, creating a protective spiritual barrier that surrounds Bali. The beautiful surroundings and rich Balinese culture inspired the creation of the iconic dance that pays homage to Hinduism’s rich tradition of storytelling and mesmerizing movements from the sacred Sanghyang, a dance in which a spiritual force enters the body and entrances the performer. Marrying contemporary art with ancient culture created this sensorial art form that unearthed a rich cache of ancient Balinese traditions and brought them into the modern age.
To this day, the fiery Kecak Dance has the power to bewitch and beguile all who venture to Uluwatu in search of a transformative experience that is truly unlike anything the modern world has to offer.