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Saturday, July 21, 2007


Kecak dance last night at the Kokokan. A mild smudgy sky with a clouded moon and a calm wind. La kid was lovely in her latest tailor-made dress from the little shop down the street. Her sun-lightened hair puffed out thick and chic. Pre-Raphaelite waves sat on top of the thickness, because that afternoon she'd loosened her braids.

At seven precisely the lights of the outdoor theater dimmed and sweaty men in loincloth appeared en masse, thumping in to the beat of their own voices: kakakakakakakak.

Syncopated. Monkey men.

Little boys also in tight checked loincloth brought in flaming torches. "Tres primitif!" I whispered to la kid, who gazed uncomprehending as I amused myself with my lame ironies.

The main monkey man, or the brother in the Ramayan story about slaying some giant in a cave, now leapt onto the stage, muttering and hissing; he and the fattish nasty giant, who spat in the audience's general direction, fell to fighting Three Stooges style. The audience didn't know whether to laugh or maintain its grim respect for native customs.

Apparently, though, this particular dance was choreographed not long ago by some Japanese, and was in any case for the most part the brainchild of modern European expatriates.

The mean giant now set to terrorizing one of the little boy monkeys, and did so good a job that the child impersonating the monkey began to cry for real, his eyes wide with fright. The good monkey brother lifted the child and consoled him, and the child went back to his monkey with a torch impersonation.

Meanwhile, clots of man monkeys hoisted the two combatants, who went at it extremely violently (the earnest American mother of three, who with her earnest hub is at the moment staying at the Kokokan, sat next to me totally appalled) -- it was really a human cockfight -- until the mean giant shuffled backwards off the stage, holding a reedy torch in front of his face to signal death. A few more celebratory poundings ensemble and the man monkeys were through.

I adored it. La kid was a bit scared.

I think I handled it sensitively: 'MEAN GIANT COMING TO SPIT ON YOU.'

ud's bali journal, summer 2000