The Ubud Palace performance
On Monday we finally got our act together and made it to our first Legong performance. What is Legong you ask? I was wondering the same thing when I was checking out Ubud's weekly performance schedule. Luckily the resort's front desk gave me some answers. They told me it was a traditional temple dance performed by young Balinese girls. Since we weren't exactly thrilled with Kecak we were glad to hear Legong would be girls dancing around instead a bunch of bare chested men playing with fire and kicking around a flaming coconut.
So it was set; we decided to see the Monday night performance at the Ubud palace. While walking along Monkey Forest road on Monday afternoon we ran into some young boys who were selling various performance tickets for the evening.
The welcome dance where the girls make offerings to honor their guests
I read somewhere in the Lonely Planet that it's typical for street vendors to sell tickets to the performance outside the show so I went ahead and bought two tickets from them despite Zaid's protest. The boys seemed honest and their tickets looked legitimate to me so I took a chance. Zaid and I got into a mini argument over my sidewalk transaction but I told him it's not a big deal since if it was really all a scam they probably need the $20 more than we do. It all ended as quickly as it started but at one point he made me feel as if I partook in a drug transaction on Monkey Forest road.
That evening we showed up at the palace half an hour early due to our resort's shuttle schedule which they suddenly decided to enforce. We found a small crowd there already and a few women carrying large baskets of cold drinks on their head.
The famous Belerung stage
The group of DSLR camera carrying crew was already starting to set up near the stage so I decided to join them but I have to tell you the best vantage points are also the most uncomfortable. I was glad we settled in front near once the show started because I was able to see all the details of the dancer's movements. In legong the dancers synchronize their entire bodies to the intricate gamelan
music. It's a bit like really good belly dancing where the dancers move different body parts to different layers of the music but in legong they use their eyes as well. We found the first show to be good and I was hooked but with our busy island tour set for tomorrow I would have to go legongless for at least one day.
Every angle was intricate and beautiful
I spent most of the morning after our road trip researching legong because I was so intrigued and also because I have a mild case of OCD, nothing too delibitating just enough to get me to go slightly frenatic over things until I've had enough. It was quite difficult to learn more about legong online as the information is pretty skimpy so I decided to bug our reception desk again. They pointed us to Peliatan where the masters do their stuff. We arrived half an hour early in pouring rain after being dropped off by the resort's shuttle who agreed to pick us up after the show.
That little girl had the best expressions
After paying the 70,000 IDR each we selected ours seat among the two rows of plastic lawn chairs that have seen better days. Altogether there was two other groups there besides us. This wasn't looking so great but it did seem authentic. The music started and we were overwhelmed as it was so much faster and more precise than the group we saw at the Ubud palace. When the dancers came out we also found them to be of a higher caliber than the Ubud bunch, their movements were sharp and bold, perfectly accompanying the music of their gamelan group. From this experience alone I will advise anyone who wants to see legong to make the short trek out to Peliatan, just south of Ubud, and you will not be disappointed.
People started to arrived ten minutes into the show due to the free transport system from downtown Ubud which was a bit late.
Drag queens, eat your hearts out
The majority of the audience were Japanese and one of women selling tickets was Japanese. I was impressed, every where I go there are Japanese people. I studied French in Montpellier with a bunch of Japanese, I studied Spanish in Cordoba with a bunch of Japanese now I'm watching some authentic legong masters among a group of Japanese. I was convinced at that moment that the Japanese know how to be tourist. I should go to Tokyo and take a course on tourism from these guys since I also want to live the Japanese tourist life.
After the show I was so moved that I contemplated extending my trip to see a bit more legong but in the end that didn't happened due to other factors such golf sized mounds where I was biten by some mysterious Indonesia insects, 21% tax and other Indonesian quirks. Maybe one day I'll be back refreshed and armed with Visine-for the emission allergy-and Off to see Tirta Sari, the most famous legong dancers, or to catch another show of Yamasari.