Our Kecak dance photos from Bali turned out too dark - most were almost black. I lightened them up a bit and salvaged a few....meaningful only to our travel companions. The grand finale to the dance is the preparation of a lively fire made from a large pile of coconuts husks. They flame up and quickly end up a smoldering pile which is repeatedly kicked around on the performance floor until the fire is gone. Problem is they kick the smoldering husks at the audience. Ouch if your bare toes get a scorch. We were in the front row and after the first kick, I lifted my feet and pulled my purse out of the way.
We've seen this dance several times and this was by far the best performance although the venue was downtown Ubud. It's better seen at one of the sea side temples with the ocean as a backdrop.
Kecak Dance is always performed just before sunset. As the drama unfolds, the scene is cast in the last rays of the sun when its orb slowly disappears behind the glowing horizon of the sea. The story continues into the darkness of nightfall as dancers are dramatically lit only by the light thrown from the flames of torches casting long shadows.
The dance begins with the percussive chants of a 150-man chorus clad in checkered cloths around their waists, sitting in concentric circles, forming a stage in the center. With burning flames as the only lighting, this cacophonous play creates a mystical atmosphere, illuminating the performers and audience alike in a haunting glow. The circular ensemble sways rhythmically back and forth and waves their hands as the drama unfolds, yet above the chants of the swaying masses, the narrator’s voice can be heard, telling the tale. As the plot progresses, the ring of acapella percussionists enhance the performance of the lead actors in the center by acting as the armies in the battle scenes, and even unite as an enormous, twisting serpent in the performance’s final climax.A triumph of style and emotion over actual story, the Kecak dance is sure to keep every viewer captivated for every second of the show.
Unlike other Balinese dances, the Kecak is not performed to the accompaniment of Gamelan, which is the Balinese “orchestra.” Instead it is enacted to the sounds of 150 or more male voices chanting “chak-achak-achak,” hence giving the dance its name. Another unique factor is that the Kecak is also one of the only dances that was created for the sole purpose of entertaining foreigners. It is almost never watched by the Balinese in their villages.
Kecak was originally a trance ritual accompanied by a male chorus. In the 1930’s, the German painter and musician Walter Spiestook a deep interest in the ritual while he was living in Bali. He then worked together with Balinese dancer Wayan Limbak to recreate it into a drama, combining themes and movements from the traditional Sanghyang exorcism rituals with portions of the Hindu epic, Ramayana. The intention was to create a dance that was both authentic to Balinese traditions, yet appealing to a Western audience.