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Segara Windu · Kecak & Sanghyang Dance

 

This day was just about dances and dances after a stopover to Segara Windu, another souvenir shop to check what else I've missed, if any, to bring home to Singapore. 

 

A trip to Bali would be incomplete without witnessing three of the most famous dances in the country. Sanghyang (Trance) Dance, Kecak (Monkey Dance) and the Fire Dance are three performances that will truly make your visit to Bali special. Taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana, the Kecak dance is perhaps the most dramatic. The dance tells the story of Prince Rama and his rescue of Princess Sita, performed with a troupe of over 50 bare-chested men who serve as the chorus.

 

There are dozens of different dances - all part of the fascinating Balinese cultures. This tour takes you to the village of Batabulan to see three dances.

Kecak (Monkey) Dance - Performed by a group of at least 50 men who dance in a circle around blazing bamboo torches. Possibly the most dramatic of the 3 dances, it has been taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana, the dance tells the story of Prince Rama and his rescue of Princess Sita, who has been kidnapped by the evil King of Lanka. The chorus of men, who provide the orchestral accompaniment with complex and varied chants with their swaying movements. The only music to accompany them are the beats of their palms hitting their chests, thighs, or other parts of their bodies, or their claps, rhythmically accompanied by shouting and chanting. Flickering torches provide lighting and an enchanting atmosphere.

Fire Dance - Where the dancer becomes entranced and is able to dance on hot coals without feeling pain.

 

Saghyang (Trance) Dance - Traditionally performed as an exorcism to promote peace and health within the village.
 

Photos taken using Sony NEX-F3. No edits except cropping. Click on the images below to expand. Disclaimer: The photos herein and all other albums associated with Bali Sojourn are by no means a documentary. They're all touristy snapshots.

 

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Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

The day started on time, but surprisingly, less traffic than anticipated... My main program of the day was just the kecak dance, but we had over an hour to spare, so my guide dropped me off at the Segara Windhu at Batu Bulan for some final trinket and souvenir shopping. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Walking into different souvenir shops throughout my stay in Bali, I realized while they either have just about anything and everything, you'll definitely find each shop has its own uniqueness, either in a 'signature piece' to sell, or a good price point. I didn't buy anything here. Got all I need from Krisna Oleh Oleh on Day 7. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

An hour later, we're here at the Sahadewa Kecak & Fire Dance. Show starts at 6.30pm. Saw the program sheet, says there's 3 dances for an hour. This was the same place I went to for the Barong Dance on Day 2. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Who's more exotic? © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

It was drizzling a little, but the show must go on. Kecak is one of the most unique Balinese dance which, unlike the Barong dance, is not accompanied by any orchestra but by a choir of hundreds of men. Here a priest blesses the stage before the dance starts. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece, performed by a circle of 150 or more performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting "cak" and throwing up their arms, depicts a battle from the Ramayana where the monkey-like Vanara helped Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. However, Kecak has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Interestingly, while many would think this is a dance and singing style that has transcended for centuries, it's fairly modern! And guess what! While the original kecak was a trance ritual, the dances that follows were choreographed by German painter and musician Walter Spies in the early 1930s! The original kecak trance would have 150+ men chanting 'ke-cak' all the night... but nowadays a show like this would see only half of that. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

What makes the Kecak special is that the accompanying music is provided by the human voice, the gamelan suara, a choir of a hundred men or more sitting in concentric circles, swaying, standing up, lying prone as the story develops. Amongst the swaying masses the voices of the storytellers can be heard telling the unfolding tale. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

The story is a fragment from the Ramayana, the Hindu epic which finds its expression in many forms, not only in dance, but also in painting and carving. Prince Rama, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Ayodya, and his wife Sita have been banished from the kingdom by King Dasarata as a result of trickery by Rama’s stepmother. The story begins with the arrival of Rama and Sita accompanied by Rama’s brother Laksmana in the forest of Dandaka. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

The trio have been observed by the demon Rahwana, King of Alengka, who lusts after the beautiful Sita. Rahwana sends his prime minister Marica to try and isolate Sita so that Rahwana can kidnap her. Marica's magical powers turn him into a golden deer and he enters the forest and when the Sita sees the golden deer she is so enchanted by it that she asks Rama to capture it for her. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Rama chases after the deer leaving his brother Laksamana behind with strict instuction to protec Sita. When Sita thinks she hears a cry for help from Rama she forces Laksamana to go after Rama by accusing him of cowardice and he goes off to help Rama with great reluctance after drawing a magic circle on the ground and telling Sita the she should not under any circumstance step out side the circle. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Sita, left alone in the forest becomes an easy prey to the trickery of Rahwana who has disguised himself has an old periest and begs Sita for some food as he is cold and hungry. Sita falls for for his trick, she steps outside the circle to give the old priest some food and Rahwana grabs her and takes her to his palace. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Once back in his palace in Alengka, Rahwana tries everything he can to seduce Sita without any luck. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Oooh Monkey! © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

In the palace of Alengka, Sita pours out her heart about her cruel fate to Rahwana's niece Trijata, when Hanoman appears telling her that he is Rama's envoy and proving it by showing her Rama's ring. Sita gives Hanoman a hairpin to show she is still alive and sand him back to Rama with a massage to come to her rescue. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

In the meantime Rama and Laksamana accompanied by Tualen are wandering in the forest looking for Sita when Meganada, Rahwana's son, appeares and engages Rama and Laksamana in battle. Meganada uses his magic powers and shoots of an arrow which magically turns in to a dragon which overpowers Rama and Laksamana and they are trussed up in ropes. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

The bird Garuda, King of all the bird, a good friend of King Dasarata, has observed trouble Rama is in from high up in the sky and comes to the rescue freeing the brothers from the ropes. Rama and Laksamana continue on their way to rescue Sita and are joined by Sugriwa, king of the monkeyes, and his monkeys army. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

This fragmen of the Ramayana come to an end with the bittle between Sugriwa and his Monkeys Army and Meganada and his Demon Army which ends with the defeat of Meganada. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Next was the Sanghyang Dedari Dance. Sanghyang is a sacred Balinese dance, based on the idea that a force enters the body of an entranced performer. The force, identified as hyang, is important spiritual entities in ancient Indonesian mythology. Sanghyang dedari is a dance performed by pre-pubescent girls, similar in some ways to the Legong dance. Often the girls are carried on the shoulders of men, and trance is associated with this ritual. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

The sanghyang dances are considered sacred ritual dances that should be performed only in Hindu Balinese religious events, never merely to entertain tourists... so the one we watched was like a preview of what the whole thing is like. The actual ceremonial dance you'd see the girls in a dreamy high state as they are supposedly possessed. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Finally the fire dance, or the Sanghyang Jaran Dance, performed by boys who ride coconut palm hobbyhorses (Kuda Lumping) in and around a fire. Trance is also associated with this ritual. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

My official entry for the KLM Airlines Holland Herald Motion Photography Competition. I wished it didn't rain. Another crew at Tanah Lot shot one big fire than here. :( It is said that in Sanghyang Jaran dance, the dancers are possessed by ancestral deity, a Gandarwa (celestial soldier) on horseback. The dancers for this sacred dance are usually the Pemangku (temple priest) or a group of chosen men, that are put into trance with wafted of incense and chorus of Sanghyang. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

In the state of trance the dancer fall, convulsed to the ground and rush to grab hobby horses. During the pre-trance chanting, coconut shells have been lit, leaving red hot coals. The entranced dancers leap into the red-hot coals, prancing on top of them, picking up the hot pieces and bathing themselves in fire. The Sanghyangs are accompanied only by a kecak chorus of chanting men. At the end, the entranced dancer is pacified by the sprinkle of holy water. © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

At the end of the show, curious tourists asking if the performer's feet were fireproof. I wonder if they're more enthralled by the whole show, going, "Oooohh, you soooo braaave..." © Evan Hwong Photographs

Bali Sojourn - Day 9
Bali Sojourn - Day 9

Let's see whose eyes are more piercing. O.O © Evan Hwong Photographs

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