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The Performing Arts
Cultural Dances of Malaysia

Grab your partner and come do the "Joget"

You are listening to the dance tune of the "Joget".
This dance, which is probably the most popular
throughout Malaysia, is performed at cultural
festivals, wedding celebrations and other social
functions. It is performed by couples who combine
fast hand and leg movements.

The following are few of the many dances of Malaysia.

KUDA KEPANG - An old traditional dance that comemorates nine Javanese men who spread the Islamic faith in the Javanese interior. The rode on horseback and told dramatic tales of the battles fought in the name of Islam to attract the interest of the people.
The dance is performed by 9 dancers astride two-dimentional 'horses' made of hide. They act out some of the Islamic battles. This very dramatic dance form is accompanied by music using gongs, tambourines and angklongs (a percussion instrument made from bamboo).

BARONGAN - This depicts the dance of a hybrid creature of diverse origins.
According to one of the tales of the origins of Barongan, there was a man who often amused himself by teasing fairies. The fairies became so angry with him that they turned him into a Barongan creature.

TARIAN LILIN (CANDLE DANCE) - This dance is based on a tale of a beautiful maiden who was left behind by her fiance when he went away in search of wealth. While he was away the maiden lost her engagement ring. Upset by the loss, the girl searched frantically for the ring until the dark hours with the aid of a candle placed on a plate.
The motions of her swaying, bending and kneeling were so beautiful to behold that a dance emulating them was born.

TARIAN ZAPIN - This dance was brought to Malaya by the Muslim missionaries from Arabia during the fifteenth century and in the traditional ways of the Arabs, only males performed it. The movements are simple and dignified with the accompaniment of the flute (gambus), gypsy type bongos (marwas) and the violin. The dance is usually performed in a pair or many pairs.
MAK YONG - The Mak Yong dance drama is a comprehensive theatre form, combining dance, opera. drama and comedy. Its origins go back several centuries starting out as a popular court entertainment.
The main actress, the Mak Yong, develops the story, usually about legendary princes and princesses. She is supported by a cast of 16 performers and backed by an orchestra of gongs, drums and violins.
NGAJAT - A traditional dance performed by many of the tribes people in Sarawak. It was the dance performed by warriors who returned after battle. The costumes are very spectacular incorporating the use of large feathers. It is usually performed in a circle and involves dramatic leaps and jumps. Music accompaniment is provided by gongs and other ethnic percussion instruments.

SUMASAU - This is the national dance of Sabah. Also a dance of thanksgiving towards abundant harvest and love of nature. Two rows of men and women dance facing each other in slow rhythmic movements, while the hand gestures are likened to the flights of birds. The costumes are authentically Kadazan.

BHARATA NATYAM - This dance is firmly rooted in Hinduism and expresses religious themes and devotions.
Stories from the Ramayana or Mahabharata scriptures are told through various dance forms like the Bharata Natyam, Odissi or Kathak.

BUTTERFLY LOVERS - This is a Chinese traditional dance about a young maiden who dressed up as a boy to pursue an education in ancient China. There she falls in love with her classmate, who did not think much of his "boyfriend". After graduation, she invited him to her house. It was here that the boy realised that his friend was indeed a beautiful girl and falls in love with her. Unfortunately the girl's parents had her betrothed to another man. Her lover dies of a broken heart.
During the marriage procession, the bride's party had to pass her lover's tombstone. Instead of being the dutiful daughter, the young maiden ran towards the tombstone and takes her life by badgering her head on the tombstone. Later two beautiful butterflies emerged and flew away in unison.


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