No matter where they’ve evolved in the world, human civilisations all seem to have developed their own distinct customs relating to song and dance. Finding rhythms in sound, and moving our bodies in time to them seems, to be an inherent part of what makes us human, but dancing isn’t always recreational. I can be ritualistic, meditative, or it can even be used to tell a story.
Uluwatu Temple in Bali is usually a place of quiet serenity. Well, almost. Built around 1000 years ago, Uluwatu presides over the Indian Ocean, perched on the edge of a 70 metre high cliff on the southernmost point of Bali. At one point it was inhabited by monks, but today those monks have been replaced by monkeys – cheeky ones at that. The mischievous mammals are notorious for stealing belongings from visitors, but they can usually be persuaded to give them back for fruit. But this Monkey Temple gets even livelier than usual around 4pm.
The Kecak dance, a Balinese Hindu ritual, is preformed daily at the temple for crowds of tourists hoping to get an authentic glimpse of Indonesian culture. The dance itself is performed by a large group in checked cloth, and is an enactment of ancient Hindu Sanskrit poems known as the Ramayana. Quite fittingly for something held in a monkey temple, the Kecak tells the story of a monkey-like people, led by the monkey god Hanuman, as they hold a prince defeat an evil king. The ritual is a feat of sights and sounds. Performers use alternating chants that almost creates a strange drum beat to which they dance. As the sun sets fires ignite to create a real spectacle in the grounds of this ancient holy temple.
A great place to stay, if you’re exploring Indonesia’s intriguing Island of the Gods, is The Chedi Club at Tanah Gajah. Just over an hour from Uluwatu Temple, the hotel enjoys a central location on Bali, giving it great access to the whole island. This Chedi Club resort also holds its own dance performances, and presents another great opportunity to interact with cheeky monkeys in the nearby Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
If you’d like more information on how you can see this fascinating dance on an even more fascinating island, get in touch with one of our Far East luxury travel experts today.