Telling the Stories of the Gods

Balinese Traditional Dances all have deeper meanings

Balinese dance is beautiful and unique, and is closely connected to religious rituals.

Dances are often performed at ceremonies, typically as part of dramas, and most involve the Balinese version of the Hindu Ramayana epic. Traditional Balinese dance forms are passed on to girls and boys at a very young age, and training is often rigorous and disciplined. Travelers are likely to have the chance to see dances if they attend ceremonies, but can also take advantage of the many performances put on for audiences across Bali.

Some dancers can even be hired to come to your hotel or villa and put on a show, perhaps backed by a gamelan orchestra. Dancers use all parts of the body, including their faces and eyes, and hand gestures are very important.

One of the most famous dances, the kecak dance, involves a chorus of seated men who create the backing sounds with their mouths and move and sway their outstretched arms to accompany the drama.

Another famous form is the barong dance, which involves a story of possession by demons, mythical creatures, and the struggle between good and evil.

One of the most spellbinding dances is the sanghyang jaran dance, in which dancers go into a trance state and perform amazing feats such as walking on hot coals or stabbing themselves with daggers, emerging unhurt.

The legong dance is one of Bali’s most refined and feminine forms, typically performed by young girls who use intricately choreographed movements, manipulating their bodies, fingers, and faces to accompany music.

Dances can be seen all over Bali, but are most common in the area around Ubud, where they are put on regularly for travelers, and in Denpasar, where several cultural centers and dance schools are found. Visitors to Bali who want to delve deeper into the art form of dance will find much to learn, and can start by simply asking the local people that they meet. Dance is very connected to life in Bali and each village is likely to have some skilled dancers and teachers that they are proud of.