The Balinese Barong and Kris Dance is not something that we originally had on our list of “must do’s” for Bali, but despite that, we arrived in Gianyar region one morning and decided to check it out. We were with two friends, Kevin and Charity, and together we had hired a private driver for the day. He would take us to various popular spots around the island. We were all a bit apprehensive about going to this dance because there were other things that we wanted to see more, but the driver insisted that we should see it. Of course, we later found out that tour guides are paid 60k for each group they bring along so it isn’t too surprising that this show is well-attended. The entrance free was 100k per person, which we felt was a little steep by Bali standards. The show is performed every morning at 9.30. They give you an English language handout so you can (at least, attempt to) follow along with the theme of the show. The notes are provided in a variety of languages but I didn’t find it particularly helpful in working out what was happening. This is not really about dance, its more a play or pantomime. There is in fact little dancing at all. The Gamelan music as always is entrancing, but it was a little overwhelming for both Justin and I. Elijah seems to be transfixed for the entire show – he sat staring at the stage with a cracker in his hand. There were parts of which we thought were amusing, but we were later told by several locals later that it is not meant to be a comedy. Instead, this is a very powerful depiction of good versus evil and how they will always exist.
Here is a little bit of information on Barong mythology, taken from Wikipedia…
“Barong is a lion-like creature and character in the mythology of Bali, Indonesia. He is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good, and enemy of Rangda, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders in the mythological traditions of Bali. The battle between Barong and Rangda is featured in Barong dance to represent the eternal battle between good and evil.
The Barong is often portrayed accompanied by two monkeys. Barong is portrayed as a lion with red head, covered in white thick fur, and wearing gilded jewelry adorned with pieces of mirrors. The shape of lion Barong is somewhat similar to a Pekingese dog. The origins of the Barong are far a back in time and quite uncertain. On the other hand, Rangda is Barong’s opposite. While Barong represents good, Rangda represents evil. Rangda is known as a demon queen, the incarnation of Calon Arang, the legendary witch that wreaked havoc in ancient Java during the reign of Airlangga in the 10th century.”
From the sides of the auditorium were the view of the local houses. At the back many local Balinese families were seated on long concrete “benches”. Of course, those probably costs next to nothing (definitely not 100k) but I will admit our pricey seats did get us a pretty good view of the show.
After the show we took a few photos outside and then jumped back in the car and set off to our next location. We had started the day early, but I don’t think any of us had known we’d be sitting through such an elaborate play as our first stop for the day. Next up we visited Tanah Lot. Located in Tabanan, about 20 kilometers from Denpasar, this temple sits on a large offshore rock which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. Check out our visit to Tanah Lot here.