Modern Traditional Dance

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
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Trip End Oct 08, 2008


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Sunday, May 25, 2008

After our flight arrived at the Bali airport we caught a taxi to Kuta and then a shuttle bus to Padangbai.  We had been here before, briefly, while we waited for the ferry to Lombok.  This time we had popped back to do some diving.  But Padangbai turned out to be a little more than just diving.

We had a great room looking out over the harbor and that included another great breakfast in the restaurant downstairs.  There was also a festival going on.  A big stage was set up along the small beachfront road.  We didn't see the first performance, the gamelan competition, because we were getting our hotel and organizing diving for the next day.  But it appeared that they would have an evening performance as well. 

In the meantime we picked a small and empty restaurant along the beachfront.  I ordered the marlin.  Erin got an avocado and chicken salad with a side of fruit salad.  Everything was delicious.  There aren't many places in the world when you can get a perfectly grilled, huge fish steak, vegetables and fries for the equivalent of about $2.80.  It was amazing.  Apparently we would be able to eat well here, too.

When the music started up, I wandered down to see the evening's entertainment.  The gamelan orchestra started up, and finally a beautifully dressed woman slipped onto the stage.  She danced for a little while.  Her movements were fascinating.  They alternated between graceful, flowing motion and a strange head wiggle that made her look like some sort of alien robot.  After she had performed for a while, a male dancer emerged from behind the stage curtain.  Everyone laughed and clapped at this man, obviously known to most everyone.  He joined with the woman and they danced together for a while.  The man's motions were fast and jerky, but with a strange grace and power.  He was courting her.  And apparently the judge at the edge of the stage.  He danced with the woman for under 5 minutes, then bowed to her and exited the stage.  He was soon replaced by another man.  It was a competition.  A male dance competition. 

It was traditional dance, but never have I seen it so alive before.  This wasn't the usual show put on for tourists.  This was modern, traditional dance.  I could tell there was a secret language being shown here.  I had no idea what the words were, but every so often the crowds would break out in laughter in response to some move or facial expression.  There were some more untraditional moves as well, such as the rather modern "spanking move."  Everyone liked that one.  Occasionally the man would slowly shake the woman's hand in time with the music.  But regardless of the dancer, the man and woman always flowed gracefully together in a complicated but standard series of moves.  It was pretty fun to watch.

Good food, good culture, and very peaceful.  What's not to like about Padangbai?

~Travis
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