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Bali Art Festival on

The Annual Bali Arts Festival - A Feast for the Eyes and Senses


Every year, from mid-June to mid-July the PKB (Pesta Kesenian Bali or Bali Arts Festival) comes to the Werdi Budaya Art Center, Jalan Nusa Indah in East Denpasar. Nightly there are performances of both traditional and contemporary dance and music at a number of the six theatre venues here. During the day, beginning at 10:00 a.m. the handicraft and food stalls open, showcasing the best of each regency, with delights for everyone of every age. In the late morning rare forms of music and dance from all over the island are shown - a great time to see some great performances. This year nearly twenty groups from outside Indonesia will also be strutting their stuff. And all of this is for free!

In 1979, Bali's governor, the esteemed and loved Prof. Ida Bagus Mantera, opened the very first Bali Arts Festival on June 20th. He stated that “the Bali Arts Festival should take its place as the basic forum for the growth of our love of the arts.” As the arts are such an integral part of the culture, Prof. Mantera wanted to see it celebrated in a place that would be accessible to all. To promote this, most performances are free of charge to the public and those where tickets are necessary are sold at an affordable price to most people.


Each part of Bali has its unique art forms; the weaving of Sidemen, the jegog bamboo gamelan orchestra of Negara in West Bali and the genyek singing of Karangasem in the East. Most Balinese have never seen these forms and this venue was born to who both Balinese and visitors to Bali the rich cultural heritage this tiny island has to offer.

The festival begins with its s Grand Parade on opening day, starting from the Bajra Sandhi Puputan field in Renon and ending at the Denpasar Art Centre. Each regency is represented with a gamelan orchestra and people dressed in their regional dress. Often tall, towering offerings are carried of the heads of colorfully dressed women, once again showing what e diversity Bali has to offer. Balinese from all over the island come to watch this parade and it is televised on local TV. It's good idea to get to Renon early in order to get front row seat. Bring hat and an umbrellas as well as a camera. This year it begins at 3:30 pm on Saturday, June l7th (time subject to change).

At the Art Centre itself, exhibitions are set up in the two main halls. Competitions are held of food, costumes, offering making, and pop singing in the indoor Ksiranawa Theater. Performances are held in the huge outdoor Ardha Candra amphitheatre, the wantilan (a small, in the round traditional space), the tetaring Stage outside the Ardha Candra, the Ayodya stage in the old kecak arena in the northeast corner and in front of the exhibition hall by the river.

bali-art-festival-traditional-dressesThe Balinese love to go see the big dance drama spectacles put on by High School and College of performing Arts. These sendratari usually depict stories form the Ramayana or Mahabharata and are performed on the immense outdoor Ardha Candra stage on opening and closing nights.

Another popular event is the show from the winners of the kebyar gamelan competition. The top four winners from the nine different areas get to perform: two orchestras pitted against each other on the same stage. If there is intense rivalry amongst the regencies, this can be quite a noisy affair (from the audience, not the orchestra). One year the musicians had to wear helmets as they kept getting pelted with tomatoes and eggs from the “opposing teams'“ fan club. Not to worry, the committee now makes sure that the two gamelan groups are not from rival areas.

Some of the most exquisite performances are those done at the Wantilan and the outdoor stages in the evenings and those in the late morning. Here you often find forms, which are dying out, watched by only a handful of people but the spirit of the performance, can be quite moving. No tomato throwing here!

One of the favorites is the Old Masters night when performers who have devoted their life to an art form are honored. More often than not, theses artists are over 70, and some have to be helped onto the stage to manipulate a puppet or play an instrument but once in their element, the fluidity of their limbs returns. Please realize that often the times of designated performances, especially those in the mornings, can change or be cancelled.

This Article was written for by Published author and Ethnographer, Ibu Rucina Ballinger

Click Here to see 2014 Bali Art Festival XXXVI full schedule

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