Kecak is perhaps the best known of the Balinese dances. Taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana, Rama, a warrior and rightful hier to the throne of Ayodya, is exiled with his wife Sita to a faraway desert. There, an evil king spies Sita, falls in love with her, and sends a golden deer to lure Rama away.
Sita is captured, and Rama rounds up his armies to defeat those of the evil king and rescue her. Rama is the man in green dancing in the center of the circle, the golden deer is in yellow in the back.
The Kecak dance is perhaps the most dramatic. Kecak Dance is unusual because it has no musical accompaniment like many other Indonesian dances do, the rhythm of the dance is produced by the chanting ‘monkey’ chorus.
Instead, a troupe of over 150 bare-chested men serve as the chorus, making a wondrous cacophony of synchronized “chak-achak-achak” clicking sounds while swaying their bodies and waving their hands.
From that chanting noise of “Cak-cak-cak”, then it gave the dance its name Kecak. Originating in the 1930s, the background music of Kecak is from a group of men (100 or more) who provide the cak-cak-cak noise. These people wore a kain poleng (checkered sarong), sat in 3 concentric around a smaller group in the center.
Kecak tells the story of the kidnap of Sita, the wife of Rama (The Ramayana tale), the symbol of ideal womanhood by the evil king Rahwana.
This is part of the morality tale where Dharma overcomes evil.In its original form, Kecak dance is a religious ceremony performance, the audiences and photographer are not welcome during the performance of Kecak. But recently, an abbreviated version performes for entertainment.What makes the Kecak such a fascinating dance to watch are the fifty or so men in the checkered pants.
They are both the choir and the props, providing the music for the story in a series of constant vocal chants that change with the mood of the actors. They don’t sit still, either, they wave their arms to simulate fire, and reposition themselves around the stage to represent wind and fire, prison cells, and unseen hand of protection from the gods.The dance is played in five acts and lasts roughly 45 minutes.
Weekly (in some places daily) performances of the Kecak abound around the island, but the most well-known Kecak theater is in the town of Batubulan just north of the Balinese capital of Denpasar. The dance company provides transportation for a nominal fee to and from the resort.
Attending a Kecak recital is a must for any visitor to Bali. It is a wondrous experience, and a window into the musical and artistic culture that make the Balinese a special people.