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Posts tagged ‘Music of Bali’

Dancing in Bali

Watching at least one traditional Balinese dance is well worth your time. I thought the styles were as unique as any I have seen before and thought these events were worth there own post.

The stories of the dances are as ordinary a tale as in any culture. Stories of good, bad, right, wrong and love. The subjects are of demon kings, witches, gods, goddesses, prince and princesses and as in any Disney tale the good guy always seems to win. Many of the dances are also performed in a series of acts. However, the unique aspect of Balinese dance is the music and the dance itself.

The music for the dance is made from one of two sources: The first is sounds made from men who play and instrument which looks like a short xylophone bench. The men sit cross legged at this instrument and use a small pointed hammer to strike the keys on the instrument making a “ping” sound. The second form of music is made from a choir of voices. These men sit in a large circle in a trance-like state with the dance happening in the center of the circle. The men each say one word syllables like “tutt…tutt…tutt” at different speeds and octaves creating a soothing sound.

The performers wear elaborate costumes and make-up. Evil demons seem to always wear scary masks. The movement of the dancers is more deliberate that I have ever seen. Every foot, every finger, every head movement has a precise location for every poise. The women somehow made their head move side to side in an inhuman looking manner. When their head slid one direction, with there face straight out toward the crowd, their eyes slid the opposite direction. The speed at which they performed this movement must have taken years of practice to perfect. In one act, two women danced this style of dance in complete synchronization with their eyes closed the entire time.

My favorite dance was something that took me completely by surprise. I did not even have my camera ready to shoot a picture. A man in a grass skirt was dancing around a flame as all the dancers had been doing most of the night. Then out of know where he started jumping on the hot coals and stomping on them. Then the “helpers” sweep the coals in a circle again and he did it two more times! I was sure it had to be a trick so when he sat down I took a close up photo of the dancers feet. Sure enough, there were coal marks on his feet. What a way to earn a living!?!

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