Dance, music return to Bali but not foreign tourists
DENPASAR: The hypnotic chants accompanying the famous Kecak dance have become a symbol of the gradual recovery of the beleaguered tourist industry on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.
The dancers have resumed regular performances of their routines, but only for domestic tourists.
Kecak dance was developed in the 1930s by Balinese artist Wayan Limbak and German painter Walter Spies as an art form that uses no musical instruments, relying instead on human voices for its rhythm background.
It is an adaptation of the story from the Hindu epic Ramayana, involving up to 100 shirtless male Kecak dancers wearing black and white checkered sarongs, who harmoniously sing the cak throughout the performance while being seated in a circle while the dancers perform Ramayana roles. like Hanuman, Rama, Shinta, Ravana and the golden deer in the middle.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many tourist attractions across the island have had to close, including the Uluwatu temple amphitheater in south Bali, which has hosted Kecak performances for years. However, as the global health crisis subsided, more and more Indonesians are visiting the island and during the holiday season, hundreds of spectators watched the captivating spectacle.
Bali Tourism Board Chairman Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana told Arab News, “We are very grateful for the domestic tourist arrivals. In December, an average of 15,000 domestic tourists entered the island daily. With limited international destinations and outbound travel restrictions still in place, Bali remains the top destination for domestic tourists.
Recent visitor numbers represented a significant increase from July and August, the peak of the delta variant COVID-19 outbreak, when the average number of daily travelers was between 700 and 800.
But Bali is still experiencing a shortage of foreign tourists, despite the official reopening of direct international flights on October 14.
Adnyana said industry stakeholders and the government would review the situation based on the global development of the omicron variant.
“If the situation looks good, we hope that the number of mandatory quarantine days on arrival will be shortened and the regulations on international flights to Bali will be revised,” he added.
Restrictions throughout the pandemic have crippled tourism – a lifeline for Bali’s economy – severely affecting life across the island, including that of Kecak dancers.
“There are only two things that can stop the show – the COVID-19 pandemic and Nyepi Day,” I Komang dancer Adi Kusyanto told Arab News, referring to the Balinese New Year, or Day of the silence, when the predominantly Hindu island abstains from All Activities.
After multiple readjustments, the group finally restarted daily performances at the end of October for a limited audience. I Nyoman troupe spokesman Adi Ardika said the dance had been tweaked slightly to comply with social distancing measures, including reducing the number of male singers to 40, changing formations which required close physical contact and the use of face masks and face shields.
“The adjustment does not change the basic composition although the dancers have acknowledged that it makes them less expressive,” added Ardika.
Regardless of the changes and the limited audience, Kusyanto, 33, a Kecak dancer since he was 15, said, “We’re just very happy to be performing again.”
The pandemic has hit him and the rest of the troupe hard, as they have lost their dance and their main job in the hospitality industry.
“I wasn’t so shocked in March 2020 when the border was closed. I thought it was only temporary for a few months. I never thought it would be this long,” Kusyanto added.
He did odd jobs in between to make ends meet, including producing and selling large kites during Bali’s kite season, and as a garbage truck driver for the administration of his village.
But now, as domestic tourists return to the island, Kusyanto has resumed his main hospitality job as a bartender and barista at his brother’s restaurant.