Backstage at Balinese Dance Class

A child dances at a dance studio in Bali.

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.

Mariana shows us a mask.

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!

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

6 thoughts on “Backstage at Balinese Dance Class

    1. Thank you, Wanderfulpeople! We were so lucky to have been welcomed into this Balinese family’s happenings while we were in Jimbaran. Participating in activities with them made for such a rich experience and better understanding of their special culture.

  1. Your page really impressed me. Interesting real stories and great live photography. Hope to meet one day somewhere.

    Best wishes

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