Are you hosting guests who want to take in a performance of Balinese culture? You are all in luck; this is the best time of year for Bali’s unique arts. Here are just a few possibilities, and let this article lead you to do your own further googling. I can’t fit in all of Bali’s wonderful options, so I apologize to those troupes whose areas and acts I missed mentioning.
*Bali Arts Festival, June 23 – July 21, daily; first show 11 am; last shows start at 8 pm. Taman Werdhi Budaya (Bali Arts Center) Jalan Nusa Indah, Denpasar.
The scoop: Well worth a visit! Talents from Bali’s many regencies (and, some years, other nations) get the spotlight on several different stages, including a massive amphitheatre. This year, it’s the 40th festival, with the theme, Fire as the Spirit of Creation. It’s a true slice of local life, celebrating Bali’s traditional actors, musicians, crafts people, and dancers. Looking for innovation? Show up on the 9th of July, for Pesel Arts’ gamelan, and the 10th, for Tindak Alit dance company. Download the online schedule at disbud.baliprov.go.id/id/The-40th-Bali-Arts-Festival-2018.
Tips: the lineup is always subject to change, so it can be fun to just show up when you have time. The crafts exhibits can be first rate, often displaying and selling fine, original work. Free Admission.
*Ubud: This is Old Faithful. Nightly except for high holy days, year-round; easy to get tickets right at the venue, high standards of artistry. Families can grab supper at 5:30 or 6 and walk to a 7 or 7:30 performance, as most are centrally located. Some of the venues are pure magic (like Taman Saraswati or Junjungan) and there is always time at the end of the presentation to get a photo op with the costumed performers.
My tips: I can never get enough of the dynamism of Kecak (men’s Cak chanting). Each troupe and venue brings a slightly different ‘take’ on this 1930’s mélange of dancers staging Sita’s kidnapping (see Ramayana epic) and the otherworldly, percussive chorus as vocal accompaniment / monkey tribe. When program concludes with a trance dance, you get additional thrills and danger (hot coals); great for most kids. Full moon and new moon nights offer punters a prized chance to see the blazing Cak Rina performance at ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art). Great dramatic impact in this fiery battle of good and evil.
Hot ticket: Jegog, the bamboo orchestra transplanted from Jembrana regency. Ubud’s got two flashy troupes presenting this gorgeously sonorous music. When the emcee calls on audience members to sit onstage for the final number, don’t hesitate to grab some real estate under one of the huge bass instruments to sit and enjoy the thunder. Wednesday Ubud Pura Dalem, Friday & Sunday Bentuyung village.
Ubud performance schedule: ubudcommunity.com/list-of-performance/ ; also lists upcoming religious ceremonies. Admission for Ubud performances range is Rp70,000 to 100,000 per person. Go in advance to the Ubud Tourism Office at the corner of Jalan Raya Ubud and Jalan Monkey Forest if you don’t want to risk waiting to buy at the door. Touts on the street are legitimately selling tickets for face value. If you’re approached by someone selling the show you want, it’s nice to buy from them (often they are moms getting pin money commissions, or teens earning some cash).
*All in the Family: Why not ask your Balinese staff or friends if their village is going to have a ceremony or festival involving dance, puppets, or a drama? Foreigners donning sash and sarong are welcomed, and the insider who extended the invitation is pleased to offer good seating and make everyone feel welcome. My banjar has also put on teen talent shows, totally secular, as well as bachelor parties, which are great fun and the whole evening has a true kampong atmosphere with good-natured heckling by friends and a great variety of acts. Superb for that guest who prizes authenticity.
*Grand Scale: For every guest who says they don’t want anything “touristy”, there is one who will want to be seated in a proper theatre with air conditioning. Fortunately, Bali has that, with a couple of outstanding options:
Devdan Show in Devdan Theatre, Nusa Dua complex. 7:30 to 9:00 nightly. Search online for the best deals. I’ve had success with govoyagin.com which also offers transport. Devdan attracts the tour bus hordes, but independents show up as well. More faithful to Las Vegas than Bali in terms of tradition and culture, it is still entertaining in that inspired-by-Indonesia way, and acrobatics add pizazz. Devdan seats range approx. Rp 490,000 – 1,560,000.
Bali Agung Show at the Bali Safari and Marine Park is every afternoon at 2:30 except Mondays. With a cast of 150, plus ducks and big cats and elephants, this is Bali’s glitziest hour. I Made Sidia, world-famous dalang (priestly puppetmaster) and creator of marvelous shadow puppet extravaganzas, had his hand in creating this nearly a decade ago. The show retells an Indonesian legend and is included in some park admission ticket packages. Admission to Bali Agung Show ranges Rp 720,000 – 2,140,200 with various attraction and ride combos.
Ok, so it’s not air-conditioned, but there is the sunset-timed Kecak spectacularly held near Uluwatu Temple. Some online reviews remark on its overcrowding and occasional audience insensitivity. Rp100,000 at the door.
You can always consider the option of taking friends to restaurants advertising dinner shows where Joged or other dancers will entice members of the audience to join them. Good option for that special someone who can’t sit still for an hour without food or drink to distract them.
Save the dates:
July 14 -15: Kite Festival at Masceti Beach, Gianyar
August 10 – 11 Ubud Village Jazz Festival, ARMA, Ubud
August 22 – 26 Sanur Village Festival, Hotel Inna Grand Bali Beach
I’m always open to suggestions and upcoming notices of arts events: firstname.lastname@example.org
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