5 Indonesian Traditional Dances That Are Full of Mystical Things

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Indonesian Traditional Dances

Watching traditional dances has certainly become commonplace for many people, especially tourists. But what if the dance shown isn’t just an ordinary dance performance? Like some traditional dances which are full of mystical things, for example.

Indonesian people came from many religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Same with the traditional dances, there are hundreds of traditional dances in the country that has the motto Bhineka Tunggal Ika, which means Unity in Diversity. Not a few of them are ritual dances laden with mystical things.

The followings are five traditional dances from Indonesia that are very thick with mystical nuances. Make sure to take some time to watch the show if you are visiting Indonesia.

1. Kecak dance

Image taken from ayadwipabalitrans[dot]com

The Kecak dance, which is also often called the fire dance or Sanghyang dance originates from Bali. This dance is identical with the choir of “Cak Cak Cak” word from the dancers who can reach dozens of people. That’s why people called it Kecak Dance.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Kecak dance needs a very large number of dancers to do. The male dancers sit in a circle around a campfire, while the main dancers dance in a fire. The main dancers play the characters in the Ramayana story such as Rama, Sinta, Hanoman, Laksmana, Rahwana, Sugriwa, and Jatayu.

There were no musical instruments during the Kecak Dance show, except the tambourine bracelets which were attached to the dancers’ feet and hands.

This dance is very sacred and full of supernatural things. You can see it clearly from the main dancer who danced on the fire but wasn’t injured at all, just like the Tatung Player in West Kalimantan. The main dancer usually will get possessed and be able to communicate with the Gods or the purified ancestor’s spirits. The dancer will then be used as a medium to express the words of the spirit.

If you want to watch the Kecak dance performance, you can visit Uluwatu Temple, Ubud, Gianyar, or Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK). These places regularly hold the Kecak Dance performances.

2. Kuda Lumping (Jaran Kepang)

Image taken from Ministry of Education and Culture website.

Kuda Lumping, which is also known as Jaran Kepang is a traditional Javanese dance. This traditional dance features a story about a group of cavalry. The dancers perform by riding artificial horses, which are generally made of bamboo wove with artificial tail feathers. This art of dance generally come with the background music that came from percussion instruments such as drums, Angklung, large gongs, small gongs, and gamelan instruments.

During the dance show, some dancers will get possessed and show unusual attractions. Attractions that impossible to do by normal humans in general, such as eating glass, immune to the whip, and self-burning. What’s very important to remember is that not only dancers who might get possessed, even the audience can also experience random possession on this dance performance. But you don’t have to worry, because the guards are ready to get the dancers and the audience back to normal condition.

Kuda Lumping itself depicts the heroic spirit of the Cavalry on the battlefield. You can see this from the movements of the dancers who shake their artificial horses and wag its tail feathers. Those movements are very dynamic and aggressive.

You can find Kuda Lumping dance performances in many cities in Central Java and East Java. Generally, this dance will hold in certain festivals in the community.

3. Reog Ponorogo

Reog art came from East Java, while Ponorogo is the original city of the Reog. When entering the City of Ponorogo, you can see the figure of Warok and Gemblak that adorn the Ponorogo City Gate. Those two figures are inseparable figures from Reog’s art and will always appear in each of Reog’s performances.

Reog Ponorogo doesn’t contain anything mystical. Reog Ponorogo art activists also say the same thing about this. However, the dancers need to possess an extraordinary physical strength to perform this art. And it’s far above the physical abilities of humans in general. Just imagine, the dancer must lift the Barong mask with more than 50 kg of weight using their teeth throughout the show. Even another dancer might ride the mask during the show and make the weight exceed 100 kg. Now imagine, if you were in that condition, what would happen to your teeth? 😆

The perfect time to watch the Reog Ponorogo show is during the Festival of Grebeg Suro. Grebeg Suro is an annual event that people of Ponorogo will celebrate every 1 Muharram (1 Suro in Java). This event is the initial activity in welcoming the East Java Tourism Visit Year every year.

4. Salai Jin Dance

Salai Jin is a dance originating from eastern Indonesia, precisely from Ternate, North Maluku. This dance is an original ritual from native people of Ternate and full of magical values. In the past, their ancestors used this dance as a ritual to communicate with the Jinn and ask for help from the Jinns to solve various numbers of human problems.

Usually, people do the Salai Jin dance in groups, be it a whole man or a mixture of men and women. Most importantly, the dancers must in even numbers so that any unwanted things won’t happen. Just like the previous dances, the dancers will usually get possessed by the Jinn during the show, and it’s become the main attraction of the dance show itself.

The male dancers start the dance by entering the dance arena with the accompaniment of Tifa, Gongs, and Bobeto (a spell in Tidore Language). They brought a container that emitted incense-scented smoke. Shortly afterward, female dancers will follow down into the arena. They hold a bunch of dried palm leaves (Woka) tightly like a protective shield. They will dance in pairs at the beginning of the show then the female dancers will kneel in the middle of male dancers. The main part is when one of the women will collapse unconscious, and then dance uncontrollably. And finally, the dance ends with chanting spells that will awaken the dancer.

5. Rentak Bulian Dance

The Rentak Bulian dance originated from Indragiri Hulu Regency, Riau Province. Rentak Bulian was originally a ritual for the healing purpose. Rentak has the meaning of stepping, while Bulian is the name of a stopover for the ghost in the Indragiri Hulu native language.

In doing Rentak Bulian Dance, all dancers must pay attention to the following matters:

  • Female dancers must consist of seven young girls who are still virgins and beautiful.
  • While for male dancers, there only needs one young man who tough enough and has mastered the dance moves and behavior. However, there are some shows that feature male dancers up to three people.
  • Each dancer can’t have blood relations with other dancers and has received permission from the village elders.
  • Before dancing, dancers must first smoke with aloes.
  • Furthermore, all musical instruments must be sacred already.
  • Mayang Pinang (a specially chosen coconut) as a complement to the exorcism ceremony and the healing ritual.

This ritual event is performed before the dance performance. It is said that, if this dance ritual is ignored, usually the dancer will get unwanted harm.

When the dance takes place, the body of the dancers will be a media to repel disaster by the supernatural beings. Male dancers will enter a semi-conscious state as they approach the end of the dance. It was at this time that the male dancer would break the Mayang Pinang as a medical medium by snapping around the other accompanying dancers.

Well, that’s it, all the five traditional dances in Indonesia that are still very sacred and loaded with supernatural nuances. Besides the traditional dances, there are still many traditional ceremonies and other rituals. The objectives are also different; some are to resist the disaster, while others for disease treatment or ask for soil fertility and other purposes. Keep visiting the Discover62 website to learn about other unique things from Indonesia. Also, don’t forget to follow our Social Page, Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get updates and the latest news from us. We’ll see you guys in the next article, cheers.

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