Balinese culture is famous for its bright festivals and thriving traditional art forms. The Balinese people have a fierce pride in their traditional culture, and every year hundreds of festivals are put on to celebrate and revitalise it. One of the biggest cultural events of the year is the annual Bali Art Festival. Balinese art revolves around dance, so the focus of the festival is on the many different forms of traditional dance. You can also enjoy music, theatre, parades, and of course the famous elaborate costumes that dancers wear, which are like an art in themselves.
The festival starts in the villages and each village has unique practices and activities. Groups are elected to represent each village in the festival, and they are responsible for organising a brilliant performance which will represent their local traditions and bring pride to their ancestors. All these groups come together for the Arts Festival which lasts for a full month in the capital city of Denpasar.
The festival starts off with a big parade in which all the villages introduce themselves, and culminates with the Colossal Dance Drama - an event that any visitor would be sorry to miss. In between, there are different performances every day, so there is a wide variety of shows to see.
Balinese dance is not simply about moving to music- it always tells a story. Movements are carefully coordinated to act out ancient folklore, Buddhist stories, legends, and fables. These dances can be considered a sort of moving theatre, where the dancers' faces and bodies exhibit the stories. They involve intricate costumes that are brightly coloured and covered in beautiful gold adornments. These can be quite heavy and difficult to dance in, but they provide an amazing spectacle for the audience. Due to the strong influence of tradition in modern Balinese life, these shows are as popular with locals as they are with tourists - even though every local has seen the dances hundreds of times and know the stories by heart.
Bali has done a wonderful job of preserving its cultural practices in the face of tourism. The Ministry for Culture set up dance and music schools all over the island to keep the ancient practices from dying out with globalisation and urbanisation. Bali is one of the best places to see truly exotic and authentic cultural displays. In fact, its festivals are so internationally popular that tourism energises and supports local traditions rather than weakening them.