Dancing With the Apes: Kecak Dance, Bali

I intensely dislike monkeys. Maybe it is just envy. Although there is ample evidence that our evolutionary stem has developed a superior brain, deep down at the coccyx of my psyche there may still exist the tail stub of an ape. Maybe I still have a repressed urge to play with myself in public, fling my feces and steal every shiny object that isn’t nailed down.
At the Uluwatu temple in Bali, Indonesia I got stuck in a tourist trap, a narrow passageway facing a phalanx of not-so-great apes. Luckily I had been warned to remove my glasses and shiny objects and clutch my camera. But a woman in front of me was not so cautious. She let out a scream as a marauding macaque snatched her earring and taunted her to return it in exchange for a banana. Come to think of it, this hairy extortionist might consider an alternate career in banking.

But monkeys are untouchable in this Hindu temple perched on a cliff above the Indian Ocean. Every night, in a performance of the Kecak, or Monkey Dance, the monkey-like Varana helps a prince fight off an evil king while 100 men chatter like macaques.

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Monkey Dance: Audio

Monkey Dance
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.
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