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The History of Kecak Dance

in Blog
January 3, 2022
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The Kecak Dance is one of Bali’s most prominent cultural showcases, but it isn’t exactly an ‘ancient’ tradition. The dance was created back in the 1930’s, a collaboration between Balinese dancer Wayan Limbak and the German artist Walter Spies.

The Kecak dance had existed prior to this, but as a trance ritual and far from what it has become today… essentially the two artists adapted the famous story of the Ramayana into a theatric display of Balinese dance, with elements of its original ‘cak’ and other incorporations.

Wayan Limbak then brought travelling dance troupes to display this performance around the world, cementing a cultural showcase that people thus recognised as ‘Bali’.

This art is a mass entertainment show that depicts acting or drama that is not accompanied by musical instruments or gamelan. Only accompanied by a chorus of male dancers totaling about 50 to 150 people lined up in a circle wearing plaid coverings. This dance is sacred because the dancers are believed to have immunity and can burn fire. The dancers allegedly possessed spirits while doing it.

The uniqueness of this art lies in the accompaniment of the dance itself where the male dancers who dance will shout the word ‘cak cak cak’.

The hand movements of the dancers when dancing comes from a Ramayana story. More precisely, it tells the story of Dewi Shinta who was kidnapped by Ravana when Rama was hunting in the forest. In this dance, the story of Dewi Shinta’s abduction until her release is shown until the end of the story.

Apart from being an artistic performance, Kecak Dance is also always performed as a ceremony to traditional rituals. At the time of the ritual, usually the dancer will be possessed by a spirit and can even communicate with the gods or the ancestors who have been purified.

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