barong dance in bali

In Balinese mythology, Barong or Barhuand is a sacred lion-like animal considered to be the symbol of good fortune and the king of the positive spirits. It’s counterpart Rangda or Calonarang represent everything that is negative and evil. Balinese believe that in order to achieve balance in the world the two opposite forces, Barong and Rangda should level each other up.

Today, the Balinese celebrate these opposite spirits by performing a dance that is called the “Barong Dance”. The dance represents a narrative of the fight between the Barong (good) and Rangda (evil). Even though traditionally the Barong dance is performed during the Galungan and Kuningan holidays in Bali, it’s not uncommon to see the dance when there are “evil spirits” or adversity in the region or village. During the Galungan festivities, the dancers(highly trained artists) put on sacred masks and costumes (previously sprinkled with holy water from the Mount Agung) that represent the two counterparts. They go from household to household in order to push evil spirits away.

Baron dance in Bali
Credit Michael Gunther

The dance starts with two cheerful monkeys teasing the Barong in a playful manner while the soothing sounds of the traditional “gamelan” music coordinate their movements. Suddenly the Rangda appears and throws evil magic on the male dancers, ordering them to commit suicide with their own Keris (traditional Indonesian blade). Quickly the Barong swoops in and casts a protective magic on the men and makes their skin resistant to their blades. The final stage of the dance consists of the epic battle between the Barong and Rangda. The good always conquers the evil and Barong wins the battle while the Rangda runs away. The balance between these two spirits is restored.

The Barong dance is an excellent portrayal of the Balinese mythology, where the dancers vividly put the history and the myth on display for us to experience.

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