Bali’s Barong Dance

Balinese mythology is often illustrated through dance. Bali’s traditional Barong dance is a mythical story about good versus evil and provides a fascinating insight into Balinese culture.


Barong is the good spirit and looks quite lion-like. He has a red head and his body is covered in white hair. His head is adorned with jewels and pieces or mirror providing sparkle. Despite his innate goodness the Barong mask can still look a bit frightening.


Barong’s appearance is nothing as scary as that of Rangda however. Rangda is the evil spirit. She is portrayed as a witchcraft-practising widow. Her appearance features more black symbolising her evil nature, she has whopping great teeth and when she moves on stage she moves with a creepy gait.

Rangda mask from Bali’s Barong dance

Good vs. evil

The story, in a nutshell, goes that after becoming a widow Rangda summoned evil spirits to attack her son Erlangga. When a fight ensued between Erlangga and Rangda’s demons Erlangga, realising he would be defeated, called on Barong for help.

Barong came with Erlangga’s soldiers and a fight ensued. Rangda resorted to dirty tricks and cast a spell on Erlangga’s soldiers making them want to stab themselves to death with their own poisoned swords. Barong averted disaster by casting a protective spell that made the bodies of the soldiers resistant to the sharp and poisonous weapons. Barong won the fight and Rangda ran away.

Barong working his magic to protect the soldiers from Rangda’s spell

There is a lot more to the story which features many different twists and turns as well as lots of other characters, but the moral lessons stem from this central story.

The Barong and Rangda masks are considered sacred and before each outing they are sprinkled with holy water by a priest and offerings must be presented.

The Barong dance performance that I saw was shown just south of Ubud and traditional costumes and props were used. The dance music was performed by a live orchestra that sat to the left of the stage. It was a noisy and at some times confusing performance, but a fantastic introduction to Bali’s exotic culture.

Have you seen traditional dances on your travels? What did you think?

This post was sponsored by who offer cheap flights to Bali but, as always, all opinions are my own.


  • Maggie

    Wow, those costumes are great! What a fun experience. I saw a beautiful traditional Afro-Brazilian dance in Salvador, Brazil. How did you happen upon this performance? Is it something they do every once in a while and you have to know about it? Or did you get a brochure and book a seat?
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  • Martin

    Yeah thats true Bali is very turist friendly place, so all the traditional dances are performed daily, unfortunately the daily shows are very poor in fact they are focused on turist, thats why they even brought some clown figures into it…. sad… but there’s a bright side- if you by any chance know that there will be a wedding ceremony than you for sure will be able to see real original and in full aspect Barong dance… greetings

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