Friday evening: While most of the Ubud’s visitors are indulging in its thriving culinary scene, enjoying light-hearted chat in one of the many cafes, or strolling the pretty streets of Ubud, partaking in a little window shopping, some visitors thirsting for culture might fill the seats arranged inside the Ubud Palace compound.  There are no reservations, but come early for the hottest seats.  Every Friday evening, Sadha Budaya Troupe, a dance troupe from Ubud, perform at Ubud Palace. Normally they perform several dances in an evening but on Friday, an extra – special performance attracts me to become part of the audience: the Telek Dance. 

TEXT AND Photo by Kartika D. suardana

Friday evening: While most of the Ubud’s visitors are indulging in its thriving culinary scene, enjoying light-hearted chat in one of the many cafes, or strolling the pretty streets of Ubud, partaking in a little window shopping, some visitors thirsting for culture might fill the seats arranged inside the Ubud Palace compound.  There are no reservations, but come early for the hottest seats. 

Every Friday evening, Sadha Budaya Troupe, a dance troupe from Ubud, perform at Ubud Palace. Normally they perform several dances in an evening but on Friday, an extra – special performance attracts me to become part of the audience: the Telek Dance. 

The Telek Dance is considered as sacred and serves as a legacy from the dance that ancestors used to perform in temples. In some villages in Bali, Telek Dances must be performed on a specific sacred day in the hopes of obtaining salvation. In some other villages, not performing Topeng Telek means inviting hazard. However, the Telek Dance performance at Ubud Palace has since been re-choreographed. 

When the musicians begin the dynamic sound of music, known as Gong Kebyar, the dancers enter the stage. They all wear white masks showing handsome, smiley and soft characters, they wear long white sleeves covered with colorful fabrics. A Keris, Balinese traditional dagger, is tucked into the back as part of the costume and every dancer holds a fan with their right hand. The costume may showcase masculinity, but the dance routines illustrate elegance and gracefulness.

This is related to the philosophy “Rwa Bhinneda,” “Rwa” meaning “two” and “Bhinneda,” meaning “difference,” these two differences are believed to keep the world spinning. The two differences do not refer to the goodness or badness of character or behavior, nor to contradiction. Rwa Bhinneda is more comprehensive, just like sky and earth, female and male, hot and cold, and so on. So, it is said that the Telek Dance translates the Rwa Bhinneda philosophy into the form of performing arts.

Rather than standing alone, the dance is usually accompanied by the performance of Topeng Jauk – a mask dance depicting a harsh character;  Rangda is a monstrous character symbolic of black magic and maliciousness, Barong is a character symbolic of goodness, the dance finishes with a group of men captivated by a trance-like state who thrust daggers into their own chests. 

 

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Kartika D. Suardana

Awarta Nusa Dua
Royal Purnama
Anantara Seminyak

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