One of the great joys of Ubud is the nightly array of cultural entertainment available for the traveler. Most dance performances depict scenes from the ancient Hindi script Ramayana and Mahabharata; and involve tales of good triumphing over evil. Dances performed for tourists are often abbreviated and a typical performance will consist of two different dances held normally from 7.30pm-9.00pm. Tickets are normally about $5 per person and can be purchased from Ubud Tourist Information hut on the main street. You can also buy tickets from street vendors gaily clad in traditional finery at no extra cost. Venues for the performances vary according to the season or the performing troupe so remember to ask your concierge to double check with the Ubud Tourist Information for the most current performance schedule. We almost missed a performance due to some last minute changes and if you are staying in Bali for a short time, you would not be able to make the next one! Most hotels offer a free 2-way shuttle service to the performances.
The best known of all the dances, the Kecak is a special dance that is accompanied by ‘gamelan suara’; basically no instruments are played and the music is instead provided by a choir of a hundred men who sit and sing in a concentric circle with the center of the circle as a stage. The ‘stage’ is only lit with a single torch so taking good photographs will be a little difficult here even with fancy gadgetry. If you are lucky enough to be in Ubud during a full moon, there will be a special Kecak performance only held at the Agung Rai Museum of Art or ARMA. Tickets cost about $10-$15, about twice as much as the other nightly performance. There is also a dinner and show package for this special event but it is not cheap (about $30 per person). You will need to book early as places are very limited.
In the Horse Fire Trance dance, the ‘rider’ is lulled into a trance and runs almost amok on a bed of burning coconut husks. The burning coconuts husks will literally be flying at your feet especially if you are seated in the front rows so avoid putting your back packs or more importantly, your feet! on the floor.
Other performances that are not to be missed are the Legong, an extremely graceful and stylized dance; the Barong , a battle between a huge shaggy dog-lion and an evil witch and the ‘Wayang Kulit’ (Shadow Puppet) which is more a theater than a dance performance. As most of the stages are rather small, the key to getting good photographs or a good video is basically to secure a good seat right in front of all the bobbing heads. It is definitely worth it to get to the venue at least half an hour ahead to get the best seats in the house.