Skimpy-clothing, ass-grabbing, head-shaking, sweat-sharing. A middle-aged Balinese man wearing tights, banging two sticks together and yelling at people’s faces to hype them up. A couple in their early thirties: he’s wearing lime-green leopard tights and a lion’s tail and ears, she’s wearing a skeleton-print bathing suit.
It’s SUNDAY MORNING, 11 am, and people are in a trance, like they are high, chemically high. But they are just high on music, on themselves, on each other. They just let themselves go, they surrender to the music in a tribal way that goes beyond reason. Eyes closed, arms in the air, on the floor, on each other, all over the place.This is not an after-party but a gathering in a beautiful open space to basically dance till you drop. “These people are insane” is a thought that keeps popping into my mind. Eventually, I notice I’m smiling. And my feet are moving to the beat. And so are my arms. Wait a minute… are my eyes closed? Damn… it’s contagious!
It’s contagious and it’s liberating. Nobody gives a damn about what the other one is doing, what the other one is wearing, how the other one looks. There’s no good or bad dancing (although, let’s be honest, you can’t help noticing that some are more flexible than others). Everybody’s dancing their asses off and with doing so, an incredible amount of sweat starts pouring and it’s ok, it’s ok to be soaking wet. Sweat it all out, as if it’s sweat therapy.
Eventually, I start to notice that other things are going on. An old man is dancing with two little kids, the three of them holding each other’s hands, smiling; they never met before this very moment. A couple resting on a long embrace, a relaxed embrace, one that doesn’t have an expiration date, they could just hold each other for the whole 2 hours this encounter lasts and no one would look at them funny. Two other strangers locked in a synced dance, no words are exchanged, it’s just… energy? Movement, gazes.
While I stop to catch my breath, I imagine some of my friends there, they coming to visit and me taking them there. They would think I’m crazy, that everyone is crazy, exactly as I did until I tried it. But this dilemma always comes to me: who are the crazy ones? People who just go and dance with strangers every Sunday for 2 hours and obviously have a fantastic time, or people who still cling to social conventions, to social expectations, to what others might think of them?
I’ve been there all of my Ubud Sundays so far, so you know what my answer is.
Music is happiness.