Like many other tourists to the region, we had heard about the charms of the Balinese Kecak and Fire Dance. The use of chanting male chorus instead of instruments is the special appeal of this dance. From what we can understand, the dance is based on a ritual trance dance, used in times of trouble (particularly when a plague hit), where two young girls would enter a trance to the sound of chanting men, then commune with the spirits. The original ritual dance can only be performed during temple ceremonies, so, for the benefit of tourists, a variation, involving bits of the Ramayana, was developed in the 1930s as a collaboration between an Indonesian dancer and a German artist. This latter is the dance that is performed at Uluwatu at sunset.
The attraction is very popular and, although we were there during the off-season, the place was over-sold. The organizers continue to sell tickets even after the seats are gone, but at least they warn you that you will have to sit on the floor. (Actually, we ended up standing at the top of the ring, which afforded a good view.)
The setting along the cliff at sunset is spectacular. The chanting chorus of men instead of an orchestra is unusual, and the antics of the dancers playing the monkey king and clowns was entertaining. At the end of the performance, the dancer playing the monkey king extinguishes the fire by kicking it and stomping on the burning grass, which was apparently an element of the original ritual dance as well. A priest, peripheral to the story but integral to the troop, comes on stage to bless the dancer and ask the spirits to protect everyone before the dangerous part of the dance. This is not a "performance" but is an actual ritual conducted for the safety of the dancers.
We found the performance fascinating and fun and would recommend the trip out there at sunset. On certain days, the traffic can be very bad, so allow yourself plenty of time to reach the site. (As a point of reference, we allowed ourselves 3 hours to go 40km and still were 10 minutes late.)
This review is the subjective opinion of a TravelPod member and not of TravelPod.com.