One of Bali’s most sacred and ancient dances is the beautiful stately Rejang. Traditionally the dance is performed by village virgins and is performed within the inner sanctums of the temple grounds, re-enacting one of Bali’s great legendary myths of Dewarta Nawasangha about heavenly nymphs and a god’s water supply.

Photo by Ayu Sekar

And one of the most extraordinary features of this rather slow dance is the hats or headdresses of the girls. This is where the mundane reaches high levels of fantasy. While the more urban areas content themselves with little headdresses of palm leaf, in the villages they go to extraordinary lengths to create fantastic and phantasmagorical headwear. The more remote the village, the more outrageous the hats.

Flowers play a big part and the sweet smell of frangipani pervades the temple grounds as they dance. Some village elders decree that every headdress should follow a depicted design, while others seem to enjoy a free reign or at least looser boundaries to work within.

To see a Rejang group of beautiful young girls, carefully balancing these heavy headdresses above their slender necks is to reach the realms of fantasy – a bridge to the nether worlds – which of course is what the Rejang is all about.