Cak. Cak. Cak. 60 men in checkered skirts are sitting in a circle swaying their bodies towards the fire that has been placed in the middle. Cak. Cak. Cak. The singing is very fast paced. Their arms are thrown upwards. Their hands waving at the fire. It’s a spectacle of light, shadows and clacking tongues.
The Balinese Kecak fire dance has roots in Sanghyang, which was a trance-inducing form of exorcism. Later on it was adapted to an episode from the Hindu Ramayana tale. The specific type of cak cak cak singing is therefore often called the Ramayana Monkey chant. Dancers in beautiful costumes moving their hands and feet slowly and then quickly to the rhythm add an extra layer to the storytelling.
At the end I was able to witness a Sanghyang Jaran Horse Dance. In this act one of the dancers will possess the spirit of the horse and dance barefoot on hot coconut shells while sitting on a rocking horse. The dancer, who is in an advanced state of trance, will not be able to remember or perform the same movements afterwards.
I found it so mesmerizing that I wondered who was actually being brought into trance. The singers or me?
Do It Yourself
I bought tickets on the street in Ubud the night before.
You can check the day schedule at your hotel.
Tip: bring some snacks and something to drink.