Balinese dance and music: Passion meets grace

For the audio-story, please click here

Unusual melodies awaken you from your thoughts. Sounds that seem slightly disruptive, like speedy drivers on a silent road, suddenly envelop you. You might not know what to think of this music that´s at once exotic and bewitching.

Balinese performance art: Gamelan sounds and beauty abound

What you do know is that you simply can´t help but be intrigued by it all: the all-male Gamelan orchestra which elicits the traditional Indonesian sounds from xylophones, drums, gongs, and other percussive instruments. The stunning backdrop of the performance stage, with its intricately ornated angkul-angkul traditional gate and guardian statues. The gorgeous Balinese dancers, expressing the depth and versatility of their cultural stories and myths with such passion and precision.

There is grace in their movements, there is a pure embodiment of all that´s good, enticing and seductive about the Balinese culture. Theirs is the perfect blend of spirituality and sensuality, always offered up to the higher realms they so believe in.

Balinese dancers in Ubud, photo by Aditya Agarwal from Pexels

The accompanying Gamelan-music roots´ lie in an even older past than the Hindu-Buddhist origins of Balinese faith. They are a mesmerizing remnant of indigenous art forms that dominated the cultural expressions of Indonesia during its earliest records.

Barong and Legong Dance at Ubud royal palace: An artistic battleground

To get a taste of this very particular cultural phenomenon, head to Ubud royal palace at about 6:45 Pm as each night starting at 7:30 PM there´ll be a variety of rich dances shown there. The royal palace, known as Puri Saren Palace to the locals, is one of Ubud´s cultural hot-spots located along the town´s bustling main road Jalan Raya Ubud. The performances being shown there include Barong Dance, Mahabharata and Legong Dance… take your pick and expect to be wowed. To help you figure out which dance performance you might be most drawn to, here a little insight into two typical types of Balinese dance:

The Barong Dance is where Barong, a creature akin to a lion in the mythology of Bali, meets Rangda, badass-demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders. Sounds a bit like Game of Thrones, doesn´t it? Well, it´s not entirely the same, but there is an epic battle to behold, a war between good, mirrored in Barong, the king of the spirits, and evil, in the form of Rangda. I could go on a slightly feminist rant here due to “good” appearing in the form of a male figure and “bad” personified in a female. But fear not, I won´t. The dance is still an amazing sight to be enjoyed, after all!

The Legong Dance, traditionally performed by girls who have not reached puberty, enacts different traditional tales, one of them telling the story of the King of Lasem, a true heroic romance. Interestingly enough, according to legend, Legong dance came into being through a dream vision! The prince of Sukawati is said to have had a feverish dream in which two girls danced to Gamelan music. Subsequently, being the inspired guy he was, the prince arranged for such dream dances to be performed in real life.

Another story version of Legong´s possible origins states that it came into being through the sanghyang dedari, a ceremony involving voluntary possession of two little girls by beneficent spirits. Sounds kinda creepy, though, right? Again, fear not, the dance performances are absolutely mindblowing anyways, no matter where their origins really lie.

Legong dancers at Ubud Royal Palace. Photo: Saranabhi/Wikimedia commons

By the way, no matter which performance you choose to watch in the end, you can´t really go wrong: each one of them will be like a window into a very different world and enticing in its own right. And you might be more than just intrigued by its mesmerizing after- effects…

Musings on creativity: The inspiring after-effects of outstanding performance-art

I mean, do you know that feeling when you have just finished watching either a great stage performance or a fantastic movie and want nothing more than owning it like that performer just did? For some moments in time, the boundaries between you and the art in question seems to have dissolved, and its particular charm lingers in your consciousness, infusing you with the sense of new possibilities and alternative ways of being. The promise of a new you, waiting to be born into the world!

Because, let´s be honest, friends: who hasn´t aspired to be the Wolverine/ Rose from “Titanic”/ Rambo/ a Disney princess/ Mick Jagger, just moments after being utterly entranced and enchanted by their outstanding creation of art? Yes, I see you, singing into your hairbrush in front of the mirror or swaying your hips behind closed curtains …keep doing you!

Anyways, that after-performance-trance is exactly what happened to me after watching the aforementioned Balinese dance performance on the majestic playground of Ubud´s royal palace. Absolutely awe-struck by the dancer´s precise yet magical movements and with little hesitation, I booked myself into a Balinese dance class at the hotel I was staying at.

Balinese Dance lessons: Insights into a world of precision and faith

Funny thing though: The dance class eventuated in the foyer of the hotel, right next to the check-in and in front of the buffet, where people were munching on their mango-papaya-dragonfruit-salads and other tropical breakfast delights. Yeah, that´s right: My first steps into Balinese dance would be accompanied by dozens of digestive systems operating at highest speed.

First, though, it would be time to meet Eka, a lovely Balinese woman who would help me transform into an aspiring Balinese dancer for the day.  I was a little nervous: The femininity and beauty of Balinese women is the stuff legends are made off, after all! 

From a young age, Balinese girls are trained in creating intricate flower offerings and presenting them in sequence at the family temple accompanied by rituals and prayer. Furthermore, they also learn about traditional Balinese food preparation and Balinese dance, as Eka told me while dipping her makeup brush into a vast array of colors and applying them generously to my face.

With the days of dramatic make-up mostly behind me and banished to my teenage years and early twenties, I was a little out of my comfort zone – listening to Eka´s fascinating insights into Balinese culture fortunately made the time go by rather quickly. To finish the transformation into a tiny dancer, I slipped into a fancy Balinese dance-attire that Eka had lovingly handed me, and off to the hotel-lobby-area aka classroom we went.

Alas, it was time to get over my pieces of shyness for a little while and delve into some typical Balinese dance movements as instructed by my gentle teacher, never minding the full-to-capacity breakfast area and countless people curiously eyeing off this foreigner-pretending-to-be-Balinese. And this is how it went down:

Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever seen a traditional Balinese dance performance before, or a traditional dance performance from a foreign culture in general? Also – did you ever sing into a hairbrush? Sorry, had to ask 😛 As always, would love to hear from you!

Practical information on catching a performance in Ubud:

  • The easiest way to get tickets:  If you are around Jalan Raya Ubud in the afternoon, you´ll most likely run into street vendors offering tickets to the nightly spectacles. Otherwise, just head directly to Ubud Royal palace no later than 7 pm to buy your tickets at the door.
  • Performance time and duration:  Nightly performances start at 7:30 PM every day of the week and last for an hour.
  • How much does it cost me? You´ll be 100.000 IDR poorer per person, yet a lot richer in spirit!
  • Where was it again? At Ubud Royal Palace, Jalan Raya Ubud No 8, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, World.

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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37 thoughts on “Balinese dance and music: Passion meets grace

  1. These photos are wonderful. It appears to be an amazing dance. Most likely mesmerizing everyone who witnesses it first hand. Thank you for sharing this with us. Tu blog y su informativos y hermosospublicaciones siempre me asombran.

    I have some messages from you that I will be replying to you shortly.
    I took a blogging/technology break over the holidays. It was very refreshing.

    So, apologies for the delay in my responses.
    I sincerely hope your holidays were festive and full of warmth.

    Amigo, espero que este nuevo año llena su corazón con nuevas aventuras, felicidad, inspiración y amor. Aprecio su amistad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hola Drew, que te puedo decir, me tocaste el alma con tu comentario tan bonito!! Muchisimas gracias! Thanks so much for your heartfelt comment and appreciation of the photos and post and my blog in general. It always fills me with gratitude, encouragement and joy! Good on you for taking a technology break over the holidays, breaks like that are much needed sometimes. Gracias por todos tus deseos tan bellos tambien! Yo tambien aprecio tu amistad 🙂 Y te deseo que 2019 te llene con inspiracion (eso siempre es crucial, no), con salud, con muchas sonrisas y risas que vengan del alma, y quien sabe, quizas con una musa de carne y hueso!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. 😉 Glad I made you smile. Those embodied muses can be freaking hard to come by sometimes!! And sometimes, they simply appear… Un abrazo desde la distancia!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. most beautifully
    expressed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The charms of Badass-Dancing in Bali | A gypsy at heart

  5. Am

    I’ve always been fascinated by the dances and music of other cultures; says so much about the people and the history . You weote rhis in such a warm and loving way, lile you enjoyed every second of every moment.
    The images are stunning. Totally engrossing and I feel like the Balinese government/tourist board should be paying you POUNDS for this amazing and enticing showcase of their culture! Seriously. ..drop them an email? lol.

    Just fab my darling. And OBVIOUSLY the best part was you all dolled up and gorgeous having a sashay around the dancefloor/danceground(?)
    Gorgeous and priceless!

    Many warm filakia babe

    Liked by 2 people

    • Awww…man..I mean woman…you just brought a massive smile to my face and heart!! So so happy you enjoyed this – the Balinese culture is so incredibly stunning that it honest to God can barely be conveyed through words! So you telling me that I may have transported a little part of its splendour into words means a ton! I love these ancient and wise cultures, and you are so right, the dances and music of a culture are at their very heart!

      Lol I might shoot the Bali tourism board an email after your suggestion;) Thanks for your fierilicious feedback my Greek poetry-queen! And yeah it was fun to have a little dance in the hotel-lobby lol 🙂

      Muchos filakia to you querida amiga!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow – you looked like you really enjoyed getting into the groove of the dancer role. You look lovely no matter what, so the ‘to my twenties’ comment made me smile. I find it interesting that they use the make-up to make the younger dancers look older and the older dancers look younger. Hmm… My niece and her husband just went to that area, I don’t know if they saw dances or not. They were there volunteering for their church. To answer your questions: Have you ever seen a traditional Balinese dance performance before or traditional dance performance from a foreign culture in general? No, not Balinese, yes to Jamaican. Also – did you ever sing into a hairbrush? Of course – it’s one of the only ways I’d share my singing voice, I cannot carry a tune, no matter how big the brush is! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Shelley, thanks so much for gracing us again with your presence and gorgeous lines! So happy you enjoyed the post:) Jamaican dance performances sound really intriguing, too – will head to Youtube and check some out! Did you get to visit Jamaica or were the performers touring in your area? I am sure your niece and her husband will enjoy their visit to Bali, parts of the island are like a completely different world to ours, with daily gratitude rituals performed by the locals, and an incredible array of processions – including a kind of “honor your vehicle” procession!!

      Thanks for your sweet compliments – I almost chose to become a professional dancer when I was 22 so the dancer role is precious to me:) Btw, you also look so lovely and have such a cheeky smile! And happy to hear you joined the hairbrush-singer´s club 😉 It´s good fun!! Many hugs to you lovely xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome. I watched the performances at resorts we were staying at. We made friends with a few and our daughters stayed in touch with them long enough for them to stop by and visit us on a subsequent visit to the island. Bali sounds wonderful. I doubt I’d ever visit there, so am thankful you shared your experiences.
        Thank you for your compliments – it’s so fun to stop by here and see what you’re up to! xxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aw Shelley, so happy that you feel that way:) Really appreciate us being connected here. It´s also so fun to meet all types of different people from varying backgrounds while we´re out and about, isn´t it! Super stoked to share some of my insights into life on the island of the gods with you – and that you travel with me to these places! 🙂 Big hugs and I hope you enjoyed your Yoga-break 😉 xxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • A virtual travel partner – love it! Yes, I did, and I’m happy to be making sure I do that regularly again! xxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Shelley, that´s fabulous to hear:) Great stuff! I will be off to do my practice shortly too haha. Wishing you a great start to your week! xxxx

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Mere yaar!! You have sent t9he telling photos of Bali is same looks like in India .❤yeah,it is true,Passion is meeting with are really lucky and me too because my passion meets grace through you.most beautiful post.querida amiga.Big hugs and much love🤗🤗🤗💝💝💝🌷🌷🌷🌷

    Liked by 1 person

    • Meere mitra, aw your sweet words really touch my heart. We are lucky indeed! Thank you, dhanyavad for your wonderful and loyal friendship, and for your sincere and warm lines!! Very grateful for you and everything I learn from you. Muchos abrazos, amor and shaba kair 🤗💝💝💝🌷


  8. Maria J

    Wow! Thanks for bringing us closer to Bali and its culture! The pics are amazing and I love that you gave Balinese dancing a go yourself! In front of all the hotel guests! Well done! You look fabulous and like the stuff legends are made of ;)! Abrazo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Maria Jesus, so good to have you here:) Mil gracias for your gorgeous and encouraging comment 🙂 I know you would have loved this! You are such a dancing queen amiga. Chica you have me all in hiding monkey face-emoji-style with your beautiful flattery…( lol hope you get my meaning) You are a legend girl! Superabrazo para ti


  9. “Passion and grace” is there anything more seductive and pure in life than a mix of the two. These are the moments where both the artists and audience are transported to a fantasy – and I love how you describe this “after-performance-trance” in your writing (and in your voice!). As you mention, whenever I experience such a show (concert, cultural events or even a sporting event), it always makes me dream of new possibilities…especially when I was young because it allowed me to dream limitless numbers of dreams. I suppose this is true of me today as well 🙂 Wonderful and beautiful photos, now all you need to add is a video of your dance 😉 Cheers, amiga, to a great week ahead ~

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dalo, thanks so much for your visit. It´s always special for me to have you here and take in that gorgeous feedback of yours! It means a lot that you can relate to this, and I am stoked to hear you enjoyed both the writing and the audioversion 🙂 I believe age is just a number! What matters is the soul. I have met people at 20 who seem old, and seen people at 90 (like legend David Attenborough, or Yoga teacher Tao Porchon Lynch who keeps ballroom-dancing at 100 years of age) who are exuberant and young in the best sense of the word!! So, here´s to dreaming!! 🙂 Lol, that video of me dancing…mmh, a few more shyness-hurdles to jump before that! But I really appreciate the encouragement, amigo:) Cheers and enjoy your day and week xox


  10. Beautiful post!
    I’ve always been fascinated by Balinese dance, and the costumes are mesmerizing! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Maria Elena, I’ve been saving the audio for a special treat. Today was the day. It was so beautiful! You have a lovely voice and Spotify is such a nice format. I enjoyed everything about this immensely. You are So brave to dance at breakfast. 😊. I love dancing! I dance when no one is watching more than singing. I’m quite shy of my singing voice. But I often and joyously dance through my day. Bali sounds magical… thank you for taking us along. Warm hugs, suzanne 🤗❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Om swastiastu Suzanne, oh what a sweet comment, what a kind thing to say:) Thanks so much!! So happy and grateful to hear that you enjoyed the audio story:) Lol I don´t know if it was a brave thing, but it certainly felt like one to dance at brekky lol. Thanks for your super sweet words of understanding and encouragement:) Much appreciated lovely. Love that you make dance a part of your daily life!! You know what, you just inspired me to dance today girl, thanks for that 🙂 I totally understand the shyness regarding your singing voice also. There is just something very vulnerable around sharing that with others, at least in my perception… Bali IS magical! Tbh it is the most magical place I ve visited/ lived at so far. I lived in a Balinese village for 5 months some years back…very special island. Thanks again for your wonderful feedback!! 🙂 Warm hugs back, Maria Elena

      Liked by 1 person

      • Do dance today girl! It’s always a good day for dancing 😊 it’s so nice to hear form you this morning. Perhaps one day I’ll get to visit Bali and feel its magic for myself. You have brought it to life for me. Always my pleasure to read and listen to your sweet spirit. Thank you 😊❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are right, every day IS a good day for dancing!! Thanks for reminding me 🙂 I wish wholeheartedly that you may visit Bali for yourself in the future. It can get pretty touristy but there are still enough hidden gems to explore, and the underlying culture still exudes its magic 🙂 Enjoy Thanksgiving, very grateful for your presence here, and for your precious words:) 😊❤️ Hugs to you

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, I’ve begun cooking as the music plays nearby. Hugs back to you 🤗xox

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome 🙂 Cooking and music are such a great combo!!! Love it. Hugs and enjoy xox

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, I absolutely loved this post Maria. Firstly, I have wonderful memories of Bali so you took me back there with your colourful description of all the dances. I remember I loved being in Ubud in particular, it’s almost the cultural hub of the island isn’t it. Your photos here are wonderful and so full of life. As are you! I love that you took that Balinese dancing lesson, even if it was in front of breakfast eaters, lol. What an electrifying and freeing experience that would’ve been. You looked gorgeous! If I’d been there I would have joined in too, what fun!
    And yes to singing with a hairbrush! I can remember singing in front of a mirror with my neighbour when we were really young. Do you know ABBA? I always used to pretend to be Freda, the dark haired one lol.
    I loved this post. So much fun, colour and culture. You have an amazing gift. Thank you for taking me back to Bali on this cool Thursday morning in Melbourne. Big hugs and love to you across the miles xxx 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miriam, aw what a heart-felt and just plain fantastic feedback from you! Love it! Thank you so much for sharing a bit about your connection with Bali and for your wonderful appreciation:)) You are right, Ubud is Bali´s cultural hub indeed. The village I lived in when in Bali was just outside of Ubud, and I can totally see you fitting in there just fabulously:) How good would it have been if we could have had that “defying brekky-eaters while having a dance-blast” -experience together!! You are right, the experience was absolutely freeing and just exhilarating. Lol love that you shared your hairbrush-singing-experience with us!! I sure know ABBA, fantastic songs – you would be an awesome bandmember of any band, I am sure of it! Thanks so much again for your abundance of beautiful compliments and appreciation! Feeling very grateful:) Big hugs and much love to you gorgeous!! Enjoy your day xxx💕💕💕

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aww, your comments always brighten my day (and night now) Maria. A dance blast! Oh yes, that sounds absolutely fantastic. I’ve always loved to dance and can only imagine how exhilarating it would have been to be all made up and let loose in Ubud. Fabulous! You would have been stunning I’m sure. Enjoy your day there gorgeous. And thank you for your wonderful heartfelt reply. Big hugs and lotsa love. xx 💕🥰

        Liked by 1 person

      • 💖💖 Same here, gorgeous!!! I love our friendship, and I love that Drew has connected us all, really there is nothing better than finding a community of kind and likeminded souls!! You are such a bundle of joy, radiance, inspiration and beauty!!! Sending you lots of love, hugs and wishing you sweet dreams 🙂 💖💖💖 Love, love, love to ya! You stunner. xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

      • I couldn’t agree more Maria. I’m so grateful to Drew as well. 💕 To have connected us amongst so many other like minded people is very special. You, my dear gorgeous new friend, are a shining light and an absolute ray of sunshine in my blogging world. Thank you and sending you loads of kisses and hugs xx 💗

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, thank YOU lovely!! So grateful and stoked for you! 💖💖 Your words touch my soul and heart. Talk soon gorgeous, so many kisses and hugs back to you:) 💖

        Liked by 1 person

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