The "Eyes" Have it! - Indonesia

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Wed 28 Sep 2011 06:17
Position: - 08:09.600115:01.370E

The “Eyes” Have It!

You can’t possibly visit Bali without attending at least one, if not many, fabulous dance performances. 

In the delightful culture-driven community of Ubud, in the central mountains of Bali, there are nightly performances of Legong, Kecak and Barong & Rangda classical Balinese dancing at multiple venues around the city.  Our favorite was the spectacular grounds of the Ubud Palace, home to Ubud's royal family.  It's a large ornate compound with adjacent temples and impressive gates all along Ubud's main street, Jalan Raya Ubud.

Music and dance are an integral part of the cultural/religious life here and, for the most part, the story lines are easy to follow.  Good versus evil played out on a stage with a mixture of drama and slapstick comedy.  And, of course, the good guys always win!

Balinese dancing is an art that requires rigorous training from about the age of 7 or 8 for young girls.  The very precise body movements and the incredible “double jointed” finger placements which leave the audience in an awe-inspired “How does she DO that?” state-of-mind are the result of years of practice and rigorous physical manipulation.  Ouch!!!

Every movement of the dance performance is important and carefully choreographed down to the slightest shrug or the shoulder or tiny twist of the wrist, hand or finger.  But, it is the facial expressions, and the eyes in particular, that tell the story and convey the character of the dance.  


There is practically no physical contact in Balinese dancing as each dancer moves independently in shifting movements that change tempo and speed frequently.  While it does not resemble the provocative undulating mannerisms of Polynesian dancing, there exists brief moments of sexuality exhibited by a slight roll of the shoulder or a mirror-image formation by two dancers expressing a love scene nose-to-nose.    The woman’s faces are always made up beautifully with painted eyebrows and flowers in their hair.  The costumes are colorful, elaborate and often tightly bound - so much so it’s a wonder they can breathe, never mind dance with such precision and agility.


Yet, it’s always the eyes that one is drawn back to…those incredible orbs that give new meaning to the term “peripheral vision” or “bulls-eye” with infinitesimal speed and precision.  The Balinese dancer keeps you mesmerized in your seat - determined not to move a muscle on the off-chance that her laser eyes will set their sights on you.