Any given night in Ubud one can hear the insane, energetic beating of the Gamelan instrument. Follow the clear, metallic rhythm as it weaves out of a temple and you most likely come to a dancing spectacle. Young girls who dance with their eyes more than with their bodies. Ladies who dance with their fans and arms more than with their bodies. And men who grow into mighty warrior gods, darting here and there in the spotlight.
The Balinese dance for their gods, and for a sacred balance in the world. Even when they dance for tourists, there is an element of ceremony. A dancer learns from a master, and is ready only when the master’s “taksu”, or dancing spirit, enters his or her body and suddenly turns the performance from ordinary study into something slightly magical. Like at the Ubud Palace tonight.
As I saw black-sooted eyes dash back and forth to the tunes of an an ancient instrument used to summon the gods, I could not help but think of how even the most primitive aspects of the Balinese culture are light years ahead of those of mine. Compared to the simple ritualistic chanting and entertaining dance music of the past of my country, the intricate Balinese interplay between gamelan tunes and dancer’s feet, and the poetry and dress, are the height of civilization. If they only knew. How crude they would think our heritage is.(Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; August 2016)