Kecak Dance - Tari Kecak
The captivating Tari Kecak dance, also called ‘the monkey chanting dance’, was created around 1930 and is now internationally recognised as one of Bali’s top-three signature dances (along with Barong and Legong).
It steals the spotlight and is unique in that it has no other musical background but the chanting of a male chorus intoning a “keh-chack” polyrhythmic sound during most of the performance. Kecak’s storyline is taken from the Ramayana Hindu epic and it’s on the entertainment schedule of almost every Balinese arts and culture venue.
Tari Kecak stands out because most Balinese dances are generally accompanied by gamelan music whereas Tari Kecak is simply accompanied by a cappella chorus of dozens of men including one leader to set the tones, one soloist, one in charge of intoning high and low notes, as well as a narrator. The men wear black-and-white sarongs and are seated in tight, concentric circles with a central space reserved for the protagonists.
Tari Kecak depicts a shorter version of the Ramayana with dancers playing Rama, Sita, Ravana, Lakshmana, Hanuman and Sugriva. The storyline generally starts from when prince Rama goes to the woods with Sita, his wife, and Lakshmana, his brother. There, Ravana kidnaps Sita and imprisons her in his castle. Rama seeks for help and sends Lakshmana to find his friend, Sugriva, the King of the Monkey Kingdom. Hanuman, Sugriva’s commander, is sent to check on Sita in Ravana’s palace and Rama finally begins the battle.
At first, Ravana wins, but Sugriva and Hanuman then come to Rama’s aid with monkey troops. Sugriva finally wins. The male chorus chants ‘chack’, representing the sound of the monkey troops. The soft rattling sound of bells around the protagonists’ ankles is the only addition to Tari Kecak’s music background.
Good to Know and What not to Miss
- Tari Kecak actually originated from a Balinese ancient ritual called sanghyang in which dancers fall into a trance. It is also a form of an exorcism and can go on for hours or even months. The ritual used to only take place inside a temple area.
In 1930, a German artist, Walter Spies created a touristic dramatic dance version of the sanghyang by adopting the Ramayana epic as well. He worked together with a Balinese dancer, Wayan Limbak and took their innovation on a world tour. Tari Kecak has been popular since.
- Tari Kecak has been developed and modified since the 70s. Some performances now use a different storyline from another part of the Ramayana and some use a female Kecak chorus.
- Tabanan’s Kecak Kolosal event in Tanah Lot, in 2006, used 5,000 male dancers – a world record.
- The best venues to watch Tari Kecak are at Pura Uluwatu and Pura Tanah Lot. Tari Kecak performances can be found easily all over Bali, like in GWK Cultural Park, Pura Dalem Ubud, Padang Tegal Stage, Batubulan, and Umadewi Stage, and much more. Tari Kecak in Ubud and Gianyar are usually more spiritual-oriented than dramatic.
Kecak Dance Performances Locations
- Pura Uluwatu is located in Pecatu Village, Kuta Sub-District, Badung District, about 25km south of Kuta and it usually takes around one hour to get to from there. Daily Kecak performance is at 18:00.
- Pura Tanah Lot is located in Beraban Village, Kediri Sub-District, Tabanan District. It is about 30 minutes from Kuta, 13km to the west from downtown Tabanan next to Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort. Daily Kecak performances take place at Surya Mandala Cultural Park, starting at 19:00.
- GWK Cultural Park is located in Jalan Raya Uluwatu, Ungasan village, South Kuta sub-district, Badung district about 20 minutes from Kuta, on the road from Jimbaran to Dreamland Beach, Uluwatu. Daily Kecak performances take place at the GWK Amphitheatre, starting at 18:30.
- Pura Dalem Ubud is located in Jalan Raya Ubud. You can see Tari Kecak here every Monday and Friday, starting at 19:30.
- Padang Tegal Stage is situated in Jalan Hanoman, Ubud. You can watch Tari Kecak here every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, starting at 19:00.
- Batubulan village is located on the western countryside of Gianyar district, approximately 10km from Denpasar and 17km from Gianyar city.
- Umadewi Stage is situated in Jl. Waribang no. 21, Kesiman – Denpasar. Daily Kecak performances start at 18:30.