In Jimbaran, Bali, we had the great fortune to have been befriended by a local resident named Mariana. Along with his extended family, Mariana exposed us to rich aspects of Balinese culture – everything from his nephew’s 42-day ceremony and full moon celebrations at a neighborhood temple, to Prana Shakti practice and traditional Balinese dance. Mariana is a bit like a Balinese Renaissance man since he is a Prana Shakti practitioner, talented and expressive dancer, and father of four daughters.
On a sunny Saturday, Mariana invited us to observe as his graceful niece led a dance session for teenage girls. Later, we journeyed to a local dance studio to watch as one of Mariana’s daughters attended a class for younger dance students.
In a courtyard bathed in sunlight, the disciplined young Balinese girls practiced. At times, I felt as though I was backstage in one of French artist Edgar Degas’s Impressionist ballerina paintings — only this studio had a Southeast Asian twist with its elaborate tiaras, animal masks, costumes, and attractive Balinese architecture.
The diminutive dancers sported thick elastic bands at their waists. The bands were presumably worn to train the girls’ upper bodies to remain practically immobilized, thus giving the dance its distinctive flavor of only the dancers’ arms and heads gracefully moving.
During the evening hours that followed, Shawn and I travelled to cliff-hugging Uluwatu Temple for a sunset Kecak and Fire dance. The traditional performance by the seasoned professionals was made all the more special since we had witnessed just a snippet of the hard work and training that Balinese dancers go through, starting at a very young age. It seems that nothing beautiful can come without a lot of commitment.
Perhaps one of the young ladies that we watched practice that sunny afternoon may someday perform at the Uluwatu Temple in the not-so-far future!
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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.