The Kecak is also known as the Monkey Chant and has been created by the German artist Walter Spies together with the Balinese dancer Wayan Limbak in the 1930’s.
Together they came up with a dance that was both authentic to Balinese traditions but also easily understandable to western tourists.
The roots of this dance are found in Sanghyang, a trance, exorcism Bali dance…you don’t have to worry though except for the burning coconuts.
Burning coconuts? Never mind, I’ll tell you later…
The Kecak dance is mainly held in the evening on a temple site in Ubud and Uluwatu temple.
During the day on Monkey Forest Road in Ubud and especially near the market you’ll bump into many of the sellers that have their hands full with flyers.
When I first checked out one of the flyers I thought ‘Cool, I might want to check it out one day’ and before I put the flyer in my pocket the seller politely told me that the flyer is also the entrance ticket to the dance.
OK, my mistake, so I took out the 50.000 rupiah to see the Kecak and was in for a surprise…
Once I arrived I saw three long rows of plastic chairs lined up for the dance and I thought I was almost the only one in town.
They filled up quickly and before I knew the ritual started with bare-chested men coming down the temple stairs, wearing checked cloth around their waist and making monkey sounds.
It immediately gets your attention and the whole temple setting with fierce-looking statues, old trees and the sound of crickets add to the experience...
The men sit in a circle around flickering oil lamps and they move their bodies and sway their hands on the sounds of their voices following the story of Ramayana.
The Ramayana tells the story of Prince Rama who wants to rescue his kidnapped wife Sita from the hands of the evil Rawana, King of Lanka. The Prince asks the General of the Monkey Army, Hanoman, for help.
It is a typical story between good and evil described by performers who wear colourful masks, are beautifully dressed and dance gracefully.
Among the group of men is a story teller, usually one of the older men. With his low strong voice he tells you the story…however don’t worry if you seem the only one who doesn’t understand his mumbles.
It just sounds nice and it makes the whole story more poetic and dramatic.
If you want to know more about the story, have a look on the flyer,which is your entrance ticket. There's a detailed summary of the performance included.
After the Kecak dance ends someone performs a Sanghyang Jaran trance dance and rides on a wooden horse through burning coconut shells sending embers through the sky. Be careful of flying coconut shells.
The Sanghyang Jaran Trance dance
The Hindu priest is there to help the man get out of his trance and this amazing performance ends.