Kecak: Balinese Fire Dancing

kecak fire dance bali

What better way to spend the night than with a trance-inducing exorcism dance.

It’s 8pm in Ubud and the wind is picking up. Sitting in silence in the grounds of a ruined temple I notice that the dark trees surrounding the perimeter are almost indistinguishable from the darker clouds above. It’s hot. Thunder cracks in the distance. A lone gust threatens to extinguish a long line of lanterns that climb the set of crumbling stone stairs. The weather dies down, and in the brief silence that follows a strange sound rumbles ominously: cak-cak-cak, tck-tck-tck, cak-cak-cak. At the top of the ancient stairs stand a hundred shadows, swaying hypnotically in unison. Kecak is about to begin.

Kecak is a form of Balinese dance and drama that developed in the 1930s. Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece is performed by a circle of 150 or more performers percussively chanting “cak” and throwing up their arms. This, coupled with fire worshipping and men jumping barefeet on hot coals, makes for quite the spectacle.

Kecak has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance. It really shouldn’t be missed if you are in Bali.


Here’s a ropey video I took (It was so dark I switched to video by mistake and somehow ended up with this montage). While the one below shows Kecak in all its glory.


  1. Pingback: Villa Sabandari, Ubud, Bali. | Ikimasho!


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