Type of Asian Dance
Traditional Dances in Asia
The diverse cultural, religious and traditions of the Asian countries are reflected not only in their lifestyles, but also in their dances. Each country in Asia has several indigenous and ethnic groups within its own country. These groups have their own unique identities and traditions, which are also visible in their dances. Hence, this created several dancing diversities for each country.
The mythical stories, the tribal and religious rituals and from the everyday events that signify good and bad are what inspired some of these dances.
This article celebrates these diverse types of dances in Asia. It however, highlights only a small collection of dances from some of these Asian countries, for your enjoyment.
Asian Countries featured in this Dance Hub
Dunhuang Dance China
Dunhuang Dance, a dance influenced by Buddhism and the images of Buddha, originated from the province of Gansu in West China. This is the gateway between China and Central Asia, Middle East and Europe. It is through this gateway, known as the 'Silk Road', that saw the introduction of new culture, arts, trades and religion to China. This included Buddhism.
Dunhuang and Silk Road
The 'Silk Road' connection had also made Dunhuang known worldwide for fresco paintings of the 4th - 14th century, many of which can be seen in over 1000 caves in the area.
The excellent images that reflected the daily life in West China became the inspiration for a dance form. Leading dance experts studied these fresco paintings and created the Dunhuang Dance in the late 1980.
You probably have seen and watched Chinese ribbon dance either on stage or on television. The ribbons were originally part of the dancer's costume, but later became an integral component of the Dunhuang dance.
The cultural influences from Eastern Europe, Middle East and India can be seen in some of these cave's paintings. These are reflected in the Dunhuang dance where the hip movements is similar in characteristic to Middle Eastern dance and the body and hand movement are almost similar to Indian dance.
Dunhuang dance was well received by audiences not just in China, but also abroad for its elegant movements and images. It has also developed into more of a theatrical performance, which in some dances include acrobatic performance.
A Short Video of Barongan Dance
Barongan Dance Indonesia
Barongan is a dance that has strong element of trance and worship, and originated from Central Java, Indonesia. It spreads to neighboring Malaysia in a slightly different dance form and performed in the southern state of Johor.
However, this dance is more prominent as a dance drama in the Indonesian island of Bali. The dance re-enacted the battle between the demon queen, Rangda and the lion, Barong. This is a fight between good and evil.
This mythical story is about Rangda, who practiced black magic and as a result condemned by her husband. When he died, their son Erlangga became king. Frustrated with this outcome, Rangda decided to take revenge. She summoned all the demons and evil spirits to attack Erlangga.
Unable to fight off the black magic troops who proved to be too powerful, Erlangga enlisted the help of Barong. After several magic spells and fights, Barong finally won the battle and Rangda ran off into the jungle.
It is said that during this dance, the dancers go into a trance and if they are weak, they can easily be hurt. Usually before the dance, a priest will offer prayer and blessing to all the sacred items, especially Barong and Rangda's masks.
Joget one of Malaysia's Favorite Dance
Before the British ruled Malaya (old name for Malaysia), it was under the Portuguese and then the Dutch. However, it was only the state of Melaka that was occupied by the Portuguese and the Dutch, as it was the wealthiest and the most progressive of all the states, then.
The Portuguese occupied Melaka in the 16th Century and even after the Dutch and the British took over the rule, many of the direct descendants of these Portuguese soldiers and merchants continued to live in Melaka. They retain many of their own cultures as well as merging the cultures of the locals. Among the many influences of the Portuguese is the dance, Joget, one of Malaysia's favorite dances.
This is a lively dance performed by couples in a fairly quick and upbeat tempo. Watch the accompanying video to see this good humored and teasing dance among the dancing couples. Joget is now mostly performed during weddings, social and official functions.
Another variation of Joget is Joget Lambak, which is performed by a larger group instead of smaller group of 4-5 couples.
Tinikling Dance Philippines
Tinikling Dance may be one of the oldest dances from the Philippines and is now considered to be the country's national dance. This dance originated from Visayan Islands, one of the groups of island that comprises the Philippines.
In the state of Sabah, Malaysia, the ethnic group, the Kadazan, have similar dance. This is probably due to the country's close proximity to the Visayan Islands.
The dance involves two people that will clap, tap and slide bamboo poles against each other. One or more dancers will then step in between these bamboo poles in rhythmic movement, which will become faster as it progresses. Watch the accompanying video to see this dance.
The dance imitates the Tikling bird that try to dodge bamboo traps set by rice farmers.
There is no specific costume worn for Tinikling dance. However, men will generally wear the barong Tagalog, which is formal Philippine attire. Lady dancers may wear patadyong, which is a checkered skirt and traditional Philippine blouse made from pineapple fiber. The dancers will be barefooted for the dance.
Tinikling dance, also known as bamboo dance, is popular not just in the Philippines but elsewhere in other parts of the world.
Khon Dance Drama
The influence of Brahminism and Hinduism are very prominent in some of the dances in Thailand and Khon is one of them.
Khon is a masked dance-drama that tells the much beloved mythical stories in Thailand. It combines acting, martial arts, dancing and chorus singing in the telling of these stories. Originally performed for the royalties, the dance drama will also include the praising and support for the Monarchy.
The most popular and famous of these dance drama is Thailand's version of the Indian classic Ramayana, the Ramakien. It used to be performed by male dancers who will also play the female role. However, in 1800, both men and women were allowed to perform.
Besides the many masks worn by these performers to denote the good and the evil characters, colors also play an important part of Khon dance drama. For example, in the Ramakien epic, the hero will wear green, his loyal brother will wear gold and the monkey god will wear white.
Thailand's version of the story tells the tale of Rama, who is the heir to the Ayodhya throne and was sent to exile by his stepmother. In this long and complex tale, the good triumphs over evil and Rama regain his throne to rule Ayodhya again. This story is similar to Barongan Dance, which is also influenced by Hinduism.
Follow this link for Khon dance on Google Image.
Aspara Dance from Cambodia
Apsara Dance Cambodia
Angkor, a region in Cambodia, was the seat of the powerful and influential Khmer Empire between 9th to 15th centuries. It was during these periods that they spread their influences to the rest of Cambodia and the neighboring countries of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. These included art and culture.
The Khmer civilization was very much influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism. Many Indian scholars and artists were brought to Angkor and the Sanskrit language and literature flourished. This was the golden age of Khmer Empire.
However, when the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia, almost all of these art and cultures including classical dances were brutally wipe out and destroyed.
With the fall of this repressive regime, efforts were made to revive these lost art and culture of the Cambodians. Under the guidance and support of Queen Sisowath Kossamak, traditional dance experts studied the many drawings and etchings on the wall of Angkor Wat and other historical and ancient monuments. Their effort to revive and reconstruct these lost arts happened between the 80's and 90's.
What you see Apsara today, is the results of these intensive studies. It is a dance-drama love story with graceful and fine hand movements to portray emotions and feelings.
You will see similarities between Cambodia's Aspara and Thailand's Khon in terms of costumes and dance movement, and that is because both were under the Angkor Khmer Empire's influences.
Bharatanatyam Dance India
Bharatanatyam dance is a classical dance from Tamil Nadu, South India and originally performed by maidens who dedicated themselves as temple dancers and musicians. It involves complicated and angular movement and is now practiced and performed by both male and female dancers.
Traditional Dance Music
Bharatanatyam, also spelt as Bharathanatyam, is known for its grace and sculpturesque poses. As with most Asian dances, Bharathanatyam dance encompasses traditional dance music and theatre. The name is derived from the basic concept of other dances, which are Bhava, Raga and Thaala.
The Bharatanatyam dance that you see now is no longer the original dance steps but based on the modern reinterpretation by the Thanjavoor brothers during the early 18th century.
Bharatanatyam Dance has its root in Chennai. However, as reported in the Aug 23, 2012 edition of The Times of India, many of the dancers left the city for better prospect and pay, elsewhere. Chennai has to reinvent itself to claim back the title as the dance capital for Bharatanatyam Dance.
Fan Dance from Korea
Fan Dance Korea
Fan Dance from Korea originated and rise to prominence during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 until 1910), a period that saw the rise in art and culture, science, technology and trade in Korea. It was also during this period that Korea chooses Confucianism as its official religion instead of Buddhism, and Seoul was adopted as the capital city of Korea.
This Fan Dance, also known as Bucheachum, is performed by women, with a breathtaking display of fan as its main feature. The fans come in an assortment of colors and patterns such as flowers and butterflies. The movements are displays of natural phenomena such as blooming flowers and natural sea waves. The choreography is also closely related to their religious beliefs.
The dancers will wear the dangui, which is a dress with long, flowing sleeves. They will also wear a headdress, called jokduri that look like a golden tiara.
Bon Odori Japan
One of the popular and famous Japanese dances is Bon Odori. It is a dance to welcome the ancestor's soul and to express gratefulness to them. This is held during the Bon week, which is usually in August and celebrated in every city in Japan. One of the largest Bon Odori celebrations that are held outside Japan is in Shah Alam, Malaysia. This is probably due to the large Japanese expatriate community there.
Beside song, dance and food, memorial services are also held during this Bon week. This practice originated from the Chinese Buddhist's culture and tradition.
During the Bon celebration, people will gather at park or open spaces and does the Bon Odori dance, performed in circles around a raised podium where the musician will usually be. It is usually held at night, as they believed that the ancestors' souls would come back during the night.
The dance step is simple and it reminded me of group stretching exercise. See the attach video.
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Asian Dances in Danger
Asian dances are also in danger of moving in the direction of extinction. UNESCO realized this problem and formed a special unit under the Intangible Cultural Heritage Program to revive and preserve heritage such as dance, songs, languages, etc. For article on the endangered Asian dances that received assistance from UNESCO, read 'Preserving Asian Dance'
I hope you enjoyed reading these small collections of Asian Dances. If you need more information, you can buy these excellent books on Asian Dances on Amazon.com