Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar | The Biggest Annual Cultural Event in Bali

Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar | The Biggest Annual Cultural Event in Bali

Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar

The Bali Arts Festival (Pesta Kesenian Bali), held annually in Denpasar, is not only the biggest cultural event in Bali, but also one of the most significant arts festivals in all of Indonesia. The festival showcases the richness and diversity of Balinese culture through a variety of performances, including traditional music and dance, theatrical productions, and exhibitions of traditional crafts and art. Visitors from around the world flock to the festival to experience the vibrant and colorful celebration of Balinese culture.


This festival is held every year from mid-June to mid-July in the park of the Institute of Arts of Indonesia in Denpasar (Indonesian: Pesta Kesenian Bali) or PKB. It allows you to discover music, dances and plays from all the islands of Indonesia. And all this for free except for certain performances that take place inside the buildings for this Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar.

Indonesian culture is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant in the world. Dance, music and theater hold a special place in the hearts of the Balinese and form an integral part of their identity. The Bali Art Festival therefore offers the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the richness of this culture among the Balinese. Authenticity guaranteed!

Indonesian culture is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant in the world. Dance, music and theater hold a special place in the hearts of the Balinese and form an integral part of their identity. The Bali Arts Festival offers the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the richness of this culture among the Balinese. Authenticity guaranteed!

Here are the upcoming dates for the Bali Arts Festival:
  • 18 June – 16 July 2023
  • 15 June – 13 July 2024

Please note that these dates may be subject to change, so it’s always best to check with the local tourism office or the official Bali Arts Festival website for the most up-to-date information. During the festival, visitors can enjoy a wide range of traditional and contemporary performances, exhibitions, and cultural events showcasing the rich heritage and artistic traditions of Bali.

Cakepung performed at the Bali Arts Festival, accompanied by a drama dance. Dinas Kebudayaan Kabupaten Karangasem, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The aim of this festival

The aim of the Bali Arts Festival is to preserve and promote Balinese cultural values. The festival was founded in 1979, during the governorship of Ida Bagus Mantra, to promote and sustain Balinese culture. The festival is a must in Indonesia because it is a unique opportunity to discover the extent of the local culture. Indeed, during the festival tourists and Balinese will admire the richness of the performing arts of Bali through parades, musical performances and dance performances.

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Where to see this festival? (venue)

1. Werdhi Budaya Arts Center in Denpasar (Taman Werdhi Budaya Art Centre)

Go to the Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Center in Denpasar to find the main events there. Admire new performances every day that highlight sumptuous works of art but also traditional and contemporary dances. The festival presents more than 200 artistic performances. Discover traditional music with instruments such as “gamelan”.

Taman Budaya Arts Centre
Traditional music performance at Taman Werdhi Budaya Art Centre. Djep, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy the Wayang Kulit Badad puppet show based on themes such as justice, wisdom and courage all inspired by Badad stories. Enjoy Sendratari, a traditional theatrical show that mixes traditional dances and music. The city also organizes screenings of Balinese films which take place at the Ksirarnawa auditorium.

2. Bajra Sandhi Monument (Monumen Bajra Sandhi)

Monumen Bajra Sandhi is a historical monument located in Denpasar, the capital city of Bali, Indonesia. It is a symbol of Balinese struggle for independence from Dutch colonial rule. The monument’s name, “Bajra Sandhi,” translates to “Bajra” meaning “bell” and “Sandhi” meaning “union” or “unity.”

Bajra Sandhi monument. Anis Fridasari, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This monument stands as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Balinese people during the struggle for independence. It consists of a large, impressive building with a beautiful park surrounding it. Inside, you can find various dioramas and exhibits that narrate the story of Bali’s fight for freedom. It’s not only a place of historical significance but also a place of reflection and remembrance. Visitors often come to learn about Bali’s history and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere in the park surrounding the monument.

3. Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Denpasar (Institut Seni Indonesia Denpasar)

The Indonesian Institute of the Arts (Institut Seni Indonesia or ISI) in Denpasar is a prominent institution of higher education dedicated to the arts. Located in Bali, this institute focuses on nurturing and promoting artistic talent and cultural preservation. It offers a wide range of academic programs in various art forms, including visual arts, performing arts, music, dance, and theater.

ISI Denpasar plays a crucial role in preserving and promoting Bali’s rich cultural heritage. Students receive comprehensive training and education from skilled artists and educators, allowing them to hone their craft and contribute to the vibrant artistic scene of Bali and Indonesia as a whole.

Agem Keraton Lasem
The persistence of the traditional Legong Keraton Lasem dancers in carrying out agem movements accompanied by interactions between dancers makes it look expressive and interesting. Taken at a dance performance at the Indonesian Arts Institute, Denpasar, Bali. Kresnanta, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The institute is not only a center for artistic learning but also a hub for cultural exchange and collaboration. It hosts numerous cultural events, exhibitions, and performances, which provide students with opportunities to showcase their talents and connect with the broader artistic community.

ISI Denpasar’s commitment to nurturing artistic excellence and preserving traditional Balinese arts makes it an essential institution in the realm of Indonesian arts and culture. It continues to inspire and produce talented artists who contribute to the cultural vibrancy of Bali and beyond.

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Art performances during Bali Art Festival

Here are some performances that you can see during Bali Art Festival

The parades

The beginning of the festival is marked by the famous opening parade which starts in front of the Bajra Sandhi in Denpasar. The parade brings together more than 1,000 artists who present different artistic performances. Indeed, the artists come from the all provinces of Bali but also from different countries such as China and India. The various artists present their works and their talents.

During the event, many art schools compete to offer the best artistic performances. Enjoy photo session with beautiful exotic backdrops and participate in painting and craft competitions. The big festival introduces Balinese art and preserves Bali as the main tourism destination in Indonesia. Aside from parade, various competitions will be held in this event, such as literature competition, handy craft, painting and other parades such as culinary, fashion, ngelawang, ramatari, gong kebyar, and traditional dance performances.

The festival usually ends with a ceremony which features a traditional ballet dance known as ‘Sendratari’ and takes place on the Ardha Candra stage.

Live an unforgettable experience by discovering one of the most vibrant cultures in the world during the Bali Arts Festival.

Gamelan Orchestra

When we arrive, the change of scenery is direct. We find ourselves in the middle of a crowd of locals animated by popular fervor. The first show we have the chance to attend is a Balinese orchestra called “Gamelan“. This traditional music is sometimes called “Gong” in Bali. The musicians dressed in colorful costumes and their eyes made up of black settle down in front of their instrument: xylophones, gongs, drums, etc. Their appearance is already impressive! When the first instruments come alive and the orchestra slowly comes to life, silence falls in the crowd. Then comes to our ears this music so characteristic of Indonesia.

Lestarikan budaya tari dan seni gamelan bali
Gamelan orchestra. This group consists of Balinese gamelan players and one female dancer in the center of the stage. Balinese Gamelan is one of the types of Gamelan in Indonesia. Andika Panendra, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bewitching dance “Legong”

The repetitive rhythm of the music is already bewitching. But, when the dancers and dancers are added, it becomes magical. This dance called “Legong” is very different from what we are used to seeing in our Western societies. The dancers represent deities in colorful and golden costumes decorated with a headdress. The emotion transmitted is then almost hypnotic. The dance mobilizes the whole body from head to toe with eye games and finger movements. Everything may seem jerky and messy when in reality it is quite the opposite. This undoubtedly requires unfailing control and concentration.

Balinese dance Legong in Ubud, Ramayana performance, 20220823 1933 0502
Performance of a fragment of the Ramayana, with the accompanying Legong dance, by Bina Remaja Troupe group, Ubud. Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


It is easy to get carried away by the frenetic rhythm of the music and the dance. Besides, we are not the only ones, because some locals join the dance. It seems so strong to them that most of them pass out when they leave the stage. As if the music put them in a trance. They are caught each time by other people so as not to collapse on the ground. The last dancer finishes the dance in the same way accompanied by spasms. It’s super impressive!

A Kecak Chant In Ubud (167517755)
The Kecak is a traditional Balinese trance ritual accompanied by a male chorus. Its modern form, incorporating a dance portraying the Ramayana epic, was developed in the 1930s. Ilya Yakubovich, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Topeng: theatrical masked dance

After a short intermission which allowed us to visit the park and discover certain culinary specialties, we return to observe the next performance. It is a theatrical dance called Topeng. In this type of representation, the actors wear masks and in our case, they are only men. I don’t know if it’s a tradition for this type of show.
The show starts with the music of the gamelan orchestra accompanied by a flute. Then, the curtain at the back of the stage begins to move to gradually reveal the different members of a first character. Several characters thus make their appearance, before starting to discuss as in a play.

Tari Topeng Bali
Balinese mask dance (Tari Topeng Bali). Johannnindito Adisuryo (Yohanes Nindito Adisuryo), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Sources: Bali Cultural Services (in Indonesian)

Photo credit: Gijsvanbilsen via Pixabay

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