Photo: Legong dancer.

Dance and Drama in Ubud

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Traditionally the true intended audiences for cultural performances in Bali are celestial, an offering to the Gods and ancestral spirits, usually performed as part of a temple ceremony. However that doesn’t exclude more terrestrial beings from enjoying a show, and in Ubud you have the opportunity almost every night of the year (bar one, Nyepi, the silent day).





In fact, you could spend weeks in Ubud and watch a different performance every single night from traditional dance and gamelan performances, to wayang kulit, shadow puppet plays. Due to the patronage of the Ubud royal family, the most talented dancers and dance teachers have been attracted to Ubud since at least the early 1900s to entertain the royal courts.

Legong dance performers in Ubud. Photo taken in or around Dance and Drama in Ubud, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Legong dance performers in Ubud. Photo: Sally Arnold

The wealth of talent enticed the likes of foreign experts to Ubud too: Canadian musicologist Colin McPhee was one of the first Westerners to study Balinese music, and his book Music in Bali was the first analysis of Balinese music published in English, although he is more widely known for his less academic book A House in Bali.

Many of the performances take place in wonderfully atmospheric venues, such as temples and palaces around Ubud. However don’t expect a theatre — it’s usually an open courtyard and plastic chairs. Shows are modified for tourist taste i.e. they’re relatively short, but the talent, though variable, is generally worthy of the Gods. Visitors are welcome to watch performances at temple ceremonies too as long as you wear full pakian adat (traditional temple clothes): ask at your accommodation exactly how to dress. The temple shows can last several hours, but it’s not considered rude to come and go ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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