Celebrities for a Morning
As mentioned in our previous post, the Barong Dance is a traditional dance performed regularly throughout Bali. The particular performance that we attended was held in a large covered outdoor theater not far from Ubud. It's a popular attraction for people from throughout Bali as well as the neighboring islands, but rarely for tourists.
Our performance was being attended by four massive tour groups of people from Java, plus the four of us. It turns out that Java does not get many foreign tourists, so Paul, Chris and I became the show's opening attraction! Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with us and we posed with various groups of people for a good 15-20 minutes before the dance began. It was a really odd feeling to have so many people smiling at us and patiently waiting for their turn to get a picture with us. A few of the ladies rested their heads on my shoulder for the picture. One man asked me if I was from Hollywood. At one point, Paul gave one woman a one-armed hug in the middle of their picture and all the ladies around them squealed in amusement. We enjoyed the attention and we hope we gave them a good impression of foreigners!
According to custom, the Barong is a playful yet fearsome creature which represents good, and is used to chase off evil spirits. The Barong can take one of many forms, but frequently, as in this case, it is represented by a sort of tiger/dog played by two dancers. The evil spirit is represented by the witch Rhangda. Typically the dance ends with no winner, symbolizing the ongoing struggle between good and evil.
We really enjoyed the Barong Dance and seeing the talented performers act out this epic battle. The show started off with the Barong and a crafty monkey taking on a band of hunters in the woods. We were very impressed that the people playing the Barong and the monkey captured the movements and behaviors of their respective animals uncannily well.
After the Barong Dance, we headed off to see another one of the beautiful local temples. This was one of the older temples in the area:
We later visited Nyoman's uncle, who is a master carver of objects from wood and stone. He was the artist behind the beautiful teak furniture in Paul's guesthouse shown in the previous post. Nyoman apprenticed at his uncle's shop for many years before heading to the US to study.
We were then invited to Nyoman's uncle's house to visit the family shrine and meet his family members! In Bali, each home complex has a family shrine where people pray to their ancestors. Nyoman's uncle had a beautiful shrine which was adorned with his beautiful carvings, naturally!