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    Tropical Storm Tour: Bali Part 29

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015
    Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

    A Hindu priest blesses the performance space at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    A Hindu priest blesses the performance space at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Semara Ratih performs the Gadung Melati dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    Semara Ratih performs the Gadung Melati dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    For tonight’s show, I chose the Spirit of Bali by Samara Ratih at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh, about a kilometer north of Jalan Raya Ubud on Jalon Kutuh right next door to Peliatan. When I arrived there around 6:00 pm, the whole front row on the right side of the aisle was reserved, plus there was one Japanese guy already there, sitting front and center on the left side of the aisle. But, that was okay, because there was no true center anyway, uh, because of the aisle. One thing that was amazing about this place was the plastic chairs came equipped with nice, thick cushions, which I had never before seen at any other venue in Ubud.

    Semara Ratih performs the Legong Jobog dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    Semara Ratih performs the Legong Jobog dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Semara Ratih performs the Legong Jobog dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    Semara Ratih performs the Legong Jobog dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    By showtime, all of the chairs were full and the staff brought in a few more from Always Always Land. Another unusual aspect of this show was the introduction, in which the gamelan was blessed by a priest at an adjacent temple, then formed a musical procession with gongs–just like they would for a temple ceremony–all the way through the middle of the audience and up to the stage. It was really regal! After watching them perform a few pieces, I was under the impression that Gamelan Sermara Ratih is one of those ensembles who play just for the sake of playing at temple ceremonies and maybe events like the Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar–not just to make money off of tourists. That was partly due to their hyper-animated movements, which is much less pronounced in most ensembles who play for foreigners.

    Semara Ratih performs the Baris dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    Semara Ratih performs the Baris dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Semara Ratih performs the Taruna Jaya dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    Semara Ratih performs the Taruna Jaya dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Another example arrived during a soft section in one of their instrumental pieces, when some of the players busted out violin bows and sawed away on the keys of their metallophones. Full of droney ambience, it looked and sounded amazing. You don’t see too much of that kind of experimentalism at the tourist shows. The first dance was a newer version of the welcome dance created in 2003 called Gadung Melati, which boasted the most beautiful girls dressed up in super bright tropical-themed outfits, looking for all the world like they should be serving up pitchers of Hawaiian Punch.

    Semara Ratih performs the Hanoman the Monkey King dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    Semara Ratih performs the Hanoman the Monkey King dance at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Semara Ratih takes a bow at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
    Semara Ratih takes a bow at Jaba Pura Desa Kutuh in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Next up came one of the 15 versions of the Legong Kraton dance, the Legong Jobog. This one related the story of an epic battle between prince Sugriwa and his half brother, Subali. Third in line was the Baris, which depicted the brave Balinese warrior as he prepared to head off to battle. Fourth up was an older lady dressed up as a man twirling a flittering fan in Taruna Jaya, a very physical representation of the many moods of Balinese youth. Last but not least was a unique performance featuring a meditating, leaping and dancing Hanoman, the Monkey King from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. And so ended the Spirit of Bali show by Semara Ratih, one of the finest ensembles working in Ubud–and all of Bali, for that matter. Definitely check them out if you ever have the chance.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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