The real monkey, Eve, Andrew and Mark.......note the cannister of potato crisp......indeed they have learnt well from the Barong dance!!
The origins of the Kecak dance lies deeply rooted in local tradtion and Indian mythology, Ramayana and Mahabratha., an epic poem written in sanskrit. It is sometimes known as the Ramayana monkey chant(So monkey strikes once again!!).
The show started with a group of 70 to 100 man sitting in concentric circle formation and cloak in black and white checked cloth waist downwards. These men also happens to be the orchestra that will provide the "music" throughout the show........in the form of chak-a-chak-a-chak chant.......hence the name of the dance, the Kecak dance. Yes, throughout the show there is no musical instrument used! Even the sound effect of wind and the sea was mimicked by these fellas.
The kecak dance origins started as a trance ritual accompanied by an all male chorus. Infact it was a german painter in the 1930's who got so fascinated with this ritual that he recreated it into a drama which is today's kecak dance. Hence you can say that unlike the Barong dance, the kecak dance is not as old and definitely designed more for the consumption of the western tourist. This does add on to the mystique that surrounds Bali in the eyes of a westerner. Looking at this dance objectively, i would consider it an application of modern contemporary art and culture adapted to traditional cultural values fit for the consumption of the general audience.....otherwise we will never be able to understand Ramayana and Mahabratha let alone view a play!
The story line, like the Barong dance is none other than good versus evil. The dance brings together to life the tale of King Rama, his wife Dewi Sita and his brother Laksamana who were exiled to the forest for 14 years following a power struggle. In the forest, they are persecuted by Rawana, the evil Lankan king who then abducts Dewi Sita and makes her a prisoner in his palace on the Island of Lanka(Sri Lanka actually). Rama negotiated an alliance with the monkey people whose army defeats Rawana’s troops, making it possible for King Rama to rescue his wife. That's the long and short of the story in general and like the Barong dance, it is accompanied with carefully choreographed dancing and colorful costumes.
Sita asked Rama to capture the deer. Note the antlers.....that must be the golden deer.
another scene of King Rama trying to capture the golden deer in Ayodya Pura forest.
Dewi Sita and Laksamana
The evil Rawana
when Rawana could not catch Dewi Sita, he disguised himself as this old frail man Bagawan and trapped Sita into believing him that he was really old and frail.......and suddenly grabbed Sita and brought her to Alengka Pura.
Hanoman the white monkey who helped King Rama locate Dewi Sita and eventually defeated Rawana.
The last act i would call "revenge of the monkey" as Hanoman was caught by giants and was about to be roasted and because of his supernatural powers, he broke free and took revenge on his captors.
the site of the kecak dance was at Pura Uluwatu and it starts at 6pm during sunset........and it was a beautiful setting for an unforgettable evening.
when the play finally ended, you can see that we did spent quite a bit of time there......and believe you me.....definitely need more than peanuts or potato crisp as an accompaniment for this show :)
Definitely worth every rupiah to watch this epic play. There seem to be various versions and locations for the kecak dance. We would however recommend this one at Pura Uluwatu as you can see, it provides the perfect setting!