The Incomparable Kecak Fire Dance In Bali, Indonesia

Kecak Fire Dance

Photograph courtesy of Angeli C. Picazo (October 04, 2013)

Keyak is the adaptation of the ancient ceremony called Sanghiyang that was used to purify a village when there was an epidemic. The Balinese dance used to be performed by male dancers until 2006 when women kayak dancers were allowed. The nightly performance brings a lot of tourists from the resorts in Bali to the southern tip of the island in time for the show.

All of us, locals and tourists alike were seated in a circle as we waited for the Fire Dance. It started at about 5 PM when there was still enough light. Everybody was eager to watch the fire dance and we could hear shutters clicking as the ancient ceremony started. Surprisingly, there were no musical instruments that typically accompanied cultural dances. A chorus of 70 men told the story and provided the sound effects through chattering cak-cak sounds.

I loved the performance that was filled with spirituality. It was a combination of humor, dance, chanting and drama which was really amazing. The cultural dance has a complicated plot with twists and turns that are associated with our favorite TV series. From what I understand, a woman is stolen by the devil from the husband. The husband and the brother face all sorts of challenges to rescue the woman. As the sun sets, the story is build to a climax wherein the monkey king sets the castle on fire. It is a very dramatic moment with the orange flames and the embers in the middle of the stage.

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Photograph courtesy of Angeli C. Picazo (October 04, 2013)

The Kecak Fire Dance is a traditional Balinese ritual but it was actually created by a German, Walter Spies in the 1930’s and was based on the popular Hindu story of Ramayana. The cultural dance is now internationally popular because of the tours that have been arranged for the Balinese groups. However what makes the Fire Dance extra special and different is the chorus of human voice composed of men that sways, sits, stands up and lies prone on the ground as the story develops.