The Monkey Dance: Exploring Balinese Culture

Students will learn about Balinese culture through the creation of a dance to illustrate their understanding


Key Staff

Classroom teacher with opportunities to collaborate with physical education teacher

Key Skills

Making Art: Performance Skills and Techniques, Composing and Planning, Producing, Executing and Performing
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture, Connecting with Other Arts
Creative Thinking: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication and Collaboration


The Kecak is a Balinese dance drama based on the Hindu epic Ramayana, which was compiled between 500 and 400 BC. The Kecak, which is also known as the Monkey Dance, features a highly rhythmic oral chant that is intended to sound like a forest of monkeys. In this lesson, students will learn about the country of Bali and the story of Ramayana and research varied aspects of the sounds, costumes, and images of the Monkey Dance. As a culminating activity, students will create an original dance that reflects elements of the Monkey Dance and Balinese culture.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Listen to a podcast introducing the Monkey Dance
  • View images of the Monkey Dance
  • Listen to music from the Monkey Dance
  • Learn about the Hindu epic Ramayana
  • Learn about varied aspects of Bali
  • Practice taking notes
  • Conduct Internet research on varied aspects of the Monkey Dance
  • Create a class presentation
  • Create a dance that reflects an interpretation of the Monkey Dance and captures the essence of Balinese culture

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative Learning
  • Modeling
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Direct Instruction

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Internet Access
  • Projector
  • Speakers
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers should be familiar with The Ramayana, Balinese culture and the Monkey Dance. It would be helpful to read the following texts ahead of time:

  • Hanuman: The Heroic Monkey God by Joshua Greene (Mandala Publishing)
  • The Ramayana for Children by Bulbul Sharma (Penguin Global)

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Students should be familiar with the location, history and culture of Bali.
  • Students should understand that stories can be interpreted through various art forms.

Physical Space



  • Individualized Instruction
  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction


  • Test internet connection
  • Set up LCD projector and speakers
  • Photocopy papers for each student

Accessibility Notes

Students who have mobility impairments can serve as a narrator who will introduce the groups’ monkey dances.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Show your class where Bali is located on a world map. You can use an atlas, a globe, or the National Geographic website. The website features a world map. Type in “Bali” in the “Find a Place” prompt. Ask your students the following questions:

  • In what part of the world is Bali located?
  • What countries are near Bali?
  • Is Bali an island?
  • What are the geographic features of Bali?
  • What are Bali’s natural resources and natural defenses?

2. As a class, view the images in National Geographic’s Bali Photo Gallery.

3. Show the class the following image that depicts the Monkey Dance.

4. If you are able to obtain copies of either of the following books, read one or choose excerpts to share with the class:

  • Hanuman: The Heroic Monkey God by Joshua Greene, Mandala Publishing. (optional but helpful)
  • The Ramayana for Children by Bulbul Sharma, Penguin Global. (optional but helpful)

Build Knowledge

1. Tell the students that they are going to learn about the Balinese Monkey Dance by listening to a podcast. As a class, listen to a National Public Radio podcast that introduces the Monkey Dance. (Listen from the introduction at 0:00 to 4:40.)

2. Ask the students to take notes as they listen to the podcast so that they are able to recall important facts about the Monkey Dance. To help your students become proficient note-takers, model the process. Listen to a brief segment, and then pause the broadcast. As you take notes, tell your students why you choose to record specific information.

For example, you might say, “I am writing down information about the music used in the Monkey Dance because this seems important.” Students are often confused about what is pertinent information and what is not, and when they begin learning to take notes, they tend to record too much information. As you take notes, show them how you review what you have written and how you make choices. When you are finished, model how to review your notes and select the most important facts.

3. Continue modeling for you students, and then, when you feel they are clear on how you are taking notes, invite them to make suggestions after you pause the broadcast. Talk about their choices, why something might be said in a broadcast but might not necessarily be included when taking notes, and how, while you might include some information in your notes, not all of the information in the notes will be considered a main or key fact. Note-taking is a difficult skill, and it is important to allow students to ask questions, make suggestions, and participate in the class discussion.

4. After the podcast is complete, ask the students to share what they learned about the Monkey Dance using the notes. On the board, record the important facts that students recall.

5. Have your students listen to a sound sample of the Monkey Dance from the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Sound website. Click on “Play sample.”

6. After listening to the sample, ask the students to describe the music and their responses to it.

7. Tell the students that they are going to participate in a jigsaw learning activity. Tell them that the class will be divided into teams, and each team has to research information, and then create a presentation to teach the class what it has learned.

8. Tell the students that as they conduct Internet research, they are going to learn about the Hindu epic Ramayana, varied aspects of Bali and the role of the Monkey Dance in Balinese culture.


1. Divide the class into small groups of three or four and give each student a copy of the Jigsaw Learning handout. Review all the information on the handout with your class, and clarify any questions students may have.

2. Give students ample time to conduct their research. Give students the option to create visual aids to enhance their presentations. Provide drawing materials for those who wish to do so.

3. After students have completed the handout, allow each group to share its presentation.

4. After the presentations are complete, lead a class discussion based on the following questions:

  • What did you learn from your classmates’ presentations?
  • Do you think your presentation helped your classmates learn information?
  • How could you have improved your presentation?


1. Tell your students that they are going to create an original dance that reflects elements of the Monkey Dance and demonstrates their understanding of Balinese culture.

2. Have students get back in their small groups. Give each student a copy of the Monkey Dance Planner handout. Review the steps on the handout, and clarify any questions students may have. Explain that the dances should be short and should tell a story through movement.

3. Provide time for each group to practice its dance.

4. Stage a class dance performance. You may wish to rearrange your classroom to accommodate the dance performance, or find a venue such as a gymnasium or a multi-purpose room. If possible, videotape students’ dances.


Assess the student's work using the Assessment Rubric located within the Resource Carousel.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

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National Standards For Arts Education

Grade K-4 Dance Standard 1: Identifying and demonstrating movement elements and skills in performing dance

Grade K-4 Dance Standard 3: Understanding dance as a way to create and communicate meaning

Grade K-4 Dance Standard 5: Demonstrating and understanding dance in various cultures and historical periods

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Language Arts Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts


Geography Standard 1: Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic tools and technologies



Maureen Carroll
Original Writer

Daniella Garran
Original Writer

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