One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Bali was to experience the Balinese culture and Ubud is definitely the heart of Bali's culture, so it was a must stop on my personal itinerary. My husband kept asking me why Bali, and he was frankly least interested in that part of our adventure. I insisted Bali was for me and although I didn't say it to him in these words, going to Bali was not negotiable. Of course my husband enjoyed Bali much more than he thought and our son absolutely and totally adored it, as I knew he would. An ancient culture steeped in history in a gorgeous environment, enlivened with gorgeous arts and the earth's most hospitable people, what is not to love?
One terrific way to tap into the culture is to experience a Barong dance and the one we took in was outstanding. It was a glimpse into the history, art and culture of Bali and it was tremendous fun. Not in Ubud proper, it was in the Batubulan Village. This is an agrarian village and now also an arts community which highlights the best of Balinese stone carving and dance. I loved visiting a small community which has the best Barong Dance performance going. Skip the big hotel's Barong dance and go to the more authentic Pemaksan Barong Denjalan.
The setting was lovely, mere yards from the ancient Denjalan temple which was an additional treat.
The staging was simple but beautifully appropriate.
The performance was accompanied by a full Balinese musical ensemble.And then to the story.....
The Barong is a mythological character of Bali, Indonesia. He is the good guy, the king and leader of the spirits and of all good, often described as lion like.
Ok he gets extra photos because he is so adorably photogenic, not to mention that he is the supreme good guy and I like him.
One of my personal favorite characters was the Barong's friend, the monkey.
He provided the comedic relief, and oh my, he was good at that. He made me laugh several times. He also assists the Barong when he is in times of great difficulty, so yes, he is a good guy also.
Two female Balinese dancers, representing the servants of Rangda (the queen of evil) perform lovely Balinese dances.
Ok, the plot becomes more involved. And then there is Rangda, the demon queen, the mythological monster and, of course, Barong's arch enemy. I find myself wondering how often the real evil ones are female, but that is a diversion. The Barong dance is basically the battle between Barong and Rangda, representing the eternal fight between good and evil spirits, or simply between good and evil.
Yes, that would be Rangda in the back, definitely a female villain and her associates. The bad guys. She enters people and makes them angry with unfortunate consequences but in the end, good prevails.
Although I loved the art, the dance, the mythology of the performance, I loved another aspect as well. As tourists, we paid for seats with cushions. However, the rear seats without cushions were free to the Balinese natives. I must admit that I enjoyed the enjoyment of the parents and children behind me a great deal. I know this story is instilled in them, but their joy was evident as I repeatedly turned around to watch them instead of the stage. After the performance was ended, I took a few not so great photos as they were leaving.
Afterwards, our fabulous guide explains to Ethan the importance of the Barong Dance in his culture.
Overall, a wonderful introduction to our Balinese respite. Highly recommended.