Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Traditional Balinese Dance In Ubud


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Cathe Varghese



Bali, a small island in Indonesia, is famous for its vibrant culture and rich artistic traditions. One of the most captivating aspects of Balinese culture is its traditional dance forms. These dances serve as a window into the history, spirituality, and mythology of the Balinese people. Among the various regions in Bali, Ubud stands out as the cultural epicenter, renowned for its traditional Balinese dance performances.


Balinese dance is a unique and complex art form that has roots in ancient religious rituals. It combines graceful movements, intricate hand gestures, vibrant costumes, and powerful storytelling to captivate audiences. Each dance has its own distinct style, symbolism, and purpose, making the experience truly mesmerizing.


With a history dating back centuries, Balinese dance has evolved through the influence of Hinduism, indigenous beliefs, and external cultural exchanges. It is an integral part of Balinese society, with ceremonies and performances being held regularly for religious and community events.


Ubud, located in the central highlands of Bali, has long been known as a haven for artists and creatives. This picturesque town is home to numerous dance schools, studios, and performance venues. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the captivating world of traditional Balinese dance.


In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history and types of traditional Balinese dances. We will explore Ubud’s cultural significance and its role in preserving and promoting Balinese dance. We will also highlight some popular dance schools in Ubud and the influence of traditional Balinese dance on modern culture.


So, let’s embark on a journey to discover the enchanting world of traditional Balinese dance in Ubud.


History of Balinese Dance

Balinese dance has a rich and ancient history that intertwines with the island’s cultural heritage. Its origins can be traced back to the religious rituals and ceremonies of the Balinese people. The dance forms were primarily developed as a means to communicate with the gods, appease the spirits, and express gratitude to the ancestors.


Hinduism, which arrived in Bali from India around the 1st century AD, played a significant role in shaping the development of Balinese dance. It infused the dances with spiritual elements and mythological narratives. The Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, which form the basis of Hindu mythology, have been a profound influence on the repertoire of Balinese dance.


Over the centuries, Balinese dance evolved and diversified as it absorbed influences from different regions and cultures. The arrival of Javanese artists in the 16th century influenced the dance styles, leading to the development of the refined and elegant classical dance form known as Legong. This genre became popular among the royal courts of Bali.


During the colonial period, Balinese dance faced challenges as it was suppressed by the Dutch authorities. However, it remained resilient, preserved and practiced within local communities. In the 20th century, when Bali gained more autonomy, efforts were made to revive and promote traditional dance forms.


Today, Balinese dance is celebrated as a national treasure and has gained international recognition. It is an essential part of religious ceremonies, cultural festivals, and tourist attractions, showcasing the unique artistic identity of Bali.


The history of Balinese dance is not only a testament to the resilience of the Balinese people but also a reflection of their deep spirituality and connection to their ancestral roots. It serves as a bridge between the past and the present, allowing us to appreciate and understand the cultural significance of this captivating art form.


Types of Traditional Balinese Dances

Traditional Balinese dance is a diverse and vibrant art form that encompasses a wide range of styles and genres. Each dance has its own unique characteristics, movements, and cultural significance. Here are some of the most prominent types of traditional Balinese dances:


1. Legong: Legong is a classical Balinese dance performed by young girls who have undergone extensive training. It is characterized by intricate hand movements, delicate footwork, and elaborate costumes. Legong tells stories from Hindu epics and mythology, often portraying themes of love, royalty, and devotion.


2. Barong: Barong is a mythical creature in Balinese folklore, and the Barong dance depicts the eternal struggle between good (Barong) and evil (Rangda). The dancers wear intricate lion-like masks and vibrant costumes, enacting intense battles with Rangda. This dance holds great spiritual significance and is often performed for protective rituals.


3. Kecak: The Kecak dance, also known as the “monkey chant,” is a unique form of Balinese dance-drama. Accompanied by a chorus of men chanting and singing, the performance depicts scenes from the Ramayana epic. The dancers move rhythmically in a circle, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that captures the audience’s attention.


4. Topeng: Topeng is a mask dance that features various characters and personalities. The dancers wear expressive masks and engage in storytelling through facial expressions and movements. Each mask represents a specific role, such as a king, clown, or nobleman. Topeng serves as a form of entertainment and education, conveying moral messages and cultural values.


5. Pendet: Pendet is a welcoming dance performed at temple ceremonies or to honor special guests. It showcases graceful movements and delicate hand gestures as the dancers offer offerings in the form of flower petals. Pendet embodies the Balinese spirit of hospitality and gratitude.


These are just a few examples of the many traditional Balinese dances that exist. Each dance has its own significance and purpose, reflecting the cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs of the Balinese people. Through their graceful movements and intricate storytelling, these dances preserve and celebrate the rich heritage of Bali.


Ubud: The Cultural Center of Bali

Located in the heart of Bali, Ubud has long been revered as the cultural epicenter of the island. With its lush landscapes, serene rice paddies, and artistic atmosphere, it has attracted artists, writers, and performers from around the world. Ubud’s deep connection to the arts has made it an ideal location to experience and appreciate traditional Balinese dance.


Ubud offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity, where ancient temples and art galleries coexist harmoniously. The town is home to numerous dance schools, studios, and performance venues, making it an ideal destination for those seeking to learn or witness the captivating beauty of Balinese dance.


One of the main reasons why Ubud has become the cultural center of Bali is its rich history and association with the arts. In the 1930s, prominent artists like Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet settled in Ubud, attracted by its natural beauty and vibrant culture. These artists played a crucial role in shaping the development and preservation of Balinese arts, including dance.


Today, Ubud hosts regular dance performances at various venues, such as the Ubud Palace, Ubud Royal House, and the Ubud Arts Center. These traditional Balinese dance performances offer visitors a taste of the island’s mesmerizing cultural heritage. Watching the graceful movements, intricate costumes, and enchanting music in the traditional setting of Ubud provides an unforgettable experience.


Ubud also serves as a hub for dance enthusiasts who wish to learn Balinese dance. Several reputable dance schools and workshops in Ubud offer classes for beginners and advanced students alike. These schools provide a nurturing environment for students to learn the nuances of Balinese dance, including the correct gestures, postures, and expressions.


Additionally, Ubud hosts the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, an internationally recognized event that celebrates literature, arts, and cultural exchange. This festival features performances of traditional Balinese dance, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the multifaceted world of Balinese arts and culture.


Ubud’s commitment to preserving and promoting traditional Balinese dance has made it a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of the island’s artistic traditions. Its enchanting surroundings, rich cultural heritage, and thriving artistic community make it an ideal place to experience the magic and beauty of Balinese dance.


Traditional Balinese Dance Performances in Ubud

Ubud, as the cultural center of Bali, offers a myriad of opportunities for visitors to witness traditional Balinese dance performances. These captivating performances, held at various venues throughout the town, provide a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Bali and the beauty of this ancient art form.


One of the most iconic places to experience traditional Balinese dance in Ubud is the Ubud Palace. Every evening, the palace hosts enchanting dance performances, including Legong, Barong, and Kecak dances. These performances feature talented dancers adorned in intricate costumes, accompanied by live Gamelan music. The intimate atmosphere of the palace courtyard adds to the charm and authenticity of the experience.


For a more immersive and interactive experience, visitors can attend dance performances at the Ubud Arts Center. This cultural hub regularly hosts traditional Balinese dance shows, allowing attendees to witness the artists’ skills up close. The performances often include explanations and demonstrations of the dance movements, providing deeper insights into the intricacies of this ancient art form.


Another popular venue for traditional Balinese dance performances in Ubud is the Ubud Royal House. The historic setting of this venue adds a touch of grandeur to the performances, transporting spectators back in time. With its ornate architecture and lush gardens, the Ubud Royal House provides a magical backdrop for Balinese dance shows.


In addition to these established venues, various cultural festivals and special events in Ubud feature traditional dance performances. The annual Bali Arts Festival, held from June to July, showcases diverse forms of Balinese art, including dance. Visitors can witness performances by renowned dance troupes from different areas of Bali, highlighting the regional variations and distinctive styles of Balinese dance.


For those interested in a more intimate experience, several smaller venues and cultural centers in Ubud offer regular traditional Balinese dance performances. These venues provide a cozy and informal setting, allowing spectators to connect with the dancers on a deeper level and appreciate the nuances of their movements.


Attending a traditional Balinese dance performance in Ubud is an unforgettable experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the captivating world of Balinese arts and culture. The vibrant costumes, graceful movements, and soul-stirring music transport spectators into a realm of beauty, spirituality, and myth. Whether it’s at a palace, cultural center, or a local venue, witnessing a traditional Balinese dance performance in Ubud is a journey into the heart and soul of Bali.


Popular Balinese Dance Schools in Ubud

Ubud, known as the cultural heart of Bali, is home to several esteemed dance schools that offer training in traditional Balinese dance. These schools provide an opportunity for both locals and tourists to learn and embrace the captivating art form under the guidance of skilled instructors. Here are some popular Balinese dance schools in Ubud:

  1. ARMA Dance & Music Studio: Located within the Agung Rai Museum of Art, ARMA Dance & Music Studio offers a range of dance classes, including traditional Balinese dance. The school focuses on teaching basic techniques, postures, and hand movements, helping students develop a strong foundation in Balinese dance.
  2. Sanggar Cudamani: Founded by the renowned Cudamani ensemble, Sanggar Cudamani offers intensive training in Balinese music and dance. The school emphasizes cultural immersion and provides students with a deep understanding of Balinese arts. Students have the opportunity to learn from experienced teachers and perform in Cudamani’s productions.
  3. Padepokan Seni Tari Bali: Padepokan Seni Tari Bali is a well-established dance school that offers a comprehensive curriculum in Balinese dance. The school caters to students of all levels, from beginners to advanced dancers, and provides individualized attention to each student’s development. Padepokan Seni Tari Bali also organizes regular performances to showcase the skills learned by its students.
  4. Pelangi School of Dance: Pelangi School of Dance offers a wide range of dance classes, including Balinese dance, for children and adults. The school aims to introduce students to the cultural traditions of Bali through dance education. With experienced instructors and a friendly learning environment, Pelangi School of Dance is a popular choice for those seeking to explore Balinese dance.
  5. Janur Kuning Dance Studio: Janur Kuning Dance Studio focuses on teaching traditional Balinese dance and Gamelan music. Their experienced instructors provide comprehensive training, focusing on technique, rhythm, and expression. The studio also offers workshops and cultural immersion programs, allowing students to deepen their understanding of Balinese arts.

These are just a few examples of the many dance schools in Ubud that offer training in traditional Balinese dance. Each school has its own teaching style, curriculum, and atmosphere, providing students with a unique learning experience. Whether you are a beginner wanting to explore Balinese dance or an experienced dancer looking to enhance your skills, the dance schools in Ubud offer opportunities for everyone to immerse themselves in the captivating world of Balinese arts.


Influences of Traditional Balinese Dance in Modern Culture

Traditional Balinese dance continues to have a profound impact on modern culture, not only within Bali but also on a global scale. Its aesthetic beauty, storytelling, and spiritual elements have inspired and influenced various art forms, performances, and even popular culture. Here are some of the ways traditional Balinese dance has made its mark in modern culture:


1. Artistic Inspiration: Traditional Balinese dance has served as a source of inspiration for artists, choreographers, and designers worldwide. Its intricate movements, vibrant costumes, and symbolism have influenced contemporary dance styles and visual arts. Elements of Balinese dance can be seen in performances ranging from ballet to contemporary dance, as artists incorporate its grace and expressiveness into their work.


2. Cross-Cultural Exchanges: Balinese dance has been showcased in international festivals and cultural exchanges, inviting artists from around the world to collaborate with Balinese dancers and musicians. This fosters a cross-pollination of ideas, techniques, and expressions, enriching the global dance community and promoting cultural understanding.


3. Tourism and Entertainment: Traditional Balinese dance plays a significant role in Bali’s tourism industry, captivating visitors with its mesmerizing performances. It has become a popular form of entertainment, with dance troupes performing in hotels, resorts, and cultural centers across the island. These performances not only showcase the beauty of Balinese culture to tourists but also generate income for local artists and communities.


4. Rituals and Celebrations: Traditional Balinese dance continues to be an integral part of religious ceremonies and cultural festivals in Bali. It adds a sense of spirituality and celebration to various occasions, reflecting the deep connection between art, culture, and religious practices. Balinese dance performances bring communities together, fostering a sense of identity and pride.


5. Educational Significance: In Bali, traditional dance is taught in schools and cultural centers, ensuring its preservation and passing down of knowledge to younger generations. This education not only instills a sense of cultural heritage but also provides opportunities for Balinese children to develop discipline, creativity, and self-expression through dance.


6. Social Empowerment: Balinese dance has become a catalyst for social empowerment in the local communities. Dance schools and organizations offer opportunities for talented individuals, particularly women, to pursue careers in dance, to gain economic independence, and to preserve and promote their cultural heritage.


Through its profound influence, traditional Balinese dance continues to weave its way into the fabric of modern culture. Its beauty, spirit, and storytelling continue to inspire artists, entertain audiences, and enrich lives around the world, keeping the traditions of Bali alive and vibrant.



Traditional Balinese dance is a captivating art form that offers a window into the rich cultural heritage of Bali. Its intricate movements, vibrant costumes, and powerful storytelling have mesmerized audiences for centuries. In the heart of Bali, Ubud stands as the cultural epicenter, preserving and promoting the art of Balinese dance.


Ubud’s deep connection to the arts, historical legacy, and thriving creative community make it an ideal destination to experience and learn traditional Balinese dance. The town offers a range of venues, from palaces to cultural centers, where visitors can witness soul-stirring performances by talented dancers.


Furthermore, Ubud is home to renowned Balinese dance schools that provide the opportunity to learn this mesmerizing art form. The skills and techniques taught in these schools not only deepen one’s understanding of Balinese culture but also contribute to the preservation of this ancient tradition.


Beyond the borders of Bali, traditional Balinese dance continues to inspire artists, impact global performances, and serve as a symbol of cultural exchange. Its influence can be seen in various art forms, from contemporary dance to visual arts, enhancing the texture and diversity of modern culture.


Finally, traditional Balinese dance plays a vital role in religious rituals, cultural celebrations, and everyday life in Bali. It serves as a powerful means of expression, bringing communities together and fostering a sense of identity and pride. Its significance and educational value provide future generations with a connection to their cultural heritage and a platform for artistic growth.


In conclusion, the allure of traditional Balinese dance in Ubud and its global influence highlight the profound impact of this art form on contemporary culture. Whether as a spectator or a student, immersing oneself in the enchanting world of Balinese dance is sure to be a transformative and unforgettable experience.