Monkey Dance: Audio
This is a Kecak dance, better known as the Balinese Monkey Dance. Recently, about 5 thousand people gathered, some whipping themselves into a trance, at Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia to pray for the return of tourism. That may sound crass and commercial but tourism is entwined in Bali’s spiritual, cultural and economic life. I have spent a lot of time in Bali over the years and I miss it. The last time I was there was just after the bombings a couple of years ago. Farmers, flower growers, artists, performers, were all devastated both morally and economically by that tragedy.
photos (c) russell johnson
Bali is a mishmosh of Hindu and animist traditions — an island in an otherwise Muslim country — and the monkey dance has elements of the Ramayana along with something called sanghyang, an exorcism ritual. It is said be a piece of choreography created in the 1930 by a local dancer and German artist Walter Spies. In fact, around that time, artists came from all over the world. You find tourists incorporated in traditional paintings. One of the clearest explanations of Bali art, dance and culture can be found in the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias’ 1937 book “The Island of Bali.
In the Ramayana tale, monkeys help Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. Sure, the Monkey Dance was created with a tourist audience in mind. But then art, music and dance in Bali is nourished by tourism. Without an audience, it would have withered. Bali is still one of the most inspiring and intriguing places on earth.