Diverse Dances of Asia

Diverse Dances of Asia

There are as many traditional dances in Asia as there are ethnic groups.
In this exhibition, the diversity and dynamics of Asian traditional ethnic dances will be examined through
Igal in the Philippines, Saman and Tari Bali in Indonesia, Ngajat in Malaysia and Lazgi in Uzbekistan.
The traditional dances of each ethnic group show the essence of their culture, and through the dances, one can get a glimpse of their spiritual world and ways of life.


Igal, Traditional Dance of the Sama of Tawi-Tawi

Igal is a traditional dance of the Sama people in the Tawi-Tawi region of the Philippines, and has been handed down for a long time.
Igal dance has many variations, and has been commonly practiced not only by the Samas but also by various ethnic groups in the western Mindanao Island. Although each ethnic group has different names for this dance, they all mean ”dance”.

Sakinur Ain Delasas, Master Igal Dancer


According to her, Igal is a dance of instinct.
There is no set rule; instead, the dance is about expressing one’s feelings in a spontaneous manner.


Many people know Igal as an Islamic religious dance. But in fact, Igal is not a Muslim dance, but a traditional dance of the Sama people.


Modern dances tend to follow the music, but for Igal, the opposite can be said, that the dance goes against the music.
The faster the music, the slower the motion.


The dancer's long nails emphasize the elegance of the dance movements.

Nursida Diamson Jaludin, Igal Dancer


Igal enables the dancer to express emotions following one’s instinct.
One can dance even without any accompanying music. There is no such thing as a wrong movement in Igal.

Saman, the Dance of a Thousand Hands, Aceh, Indonesia

Saman, also known as the Dance of a Thousand Hands, is a traditional dance of the Gayo people, who live mainly in the Aceh region of Sumatra Island, Indonesia.
It is also one of the most famous dances in Indonesia, and has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
It is a dynamic dance with male dancers’ harmonious movements set to fast tempo music.

Saman, the dance of a thousand hands, Aceh, Indonesia

Tari Bali of Indonesia

Tari Bali is a group of about 40 Balinese traditional dances of varying forms and genres, which has been categorized into three types.
Under the name “Three Genres of Traditional Dance in Bali,” it has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The three types are classified as 1. Wali (sacred dance), 2. Bebali (semi-sacred dance) and 3. Balih-Balihan (entertaining dance).
For the Balinese, dances are a part of periodic religious rituals. Dancers have charisma, a special spiritual energy that makes their performances lively. In communities in Bali, dances are transmitted formally and informally by schools and local communities mainly from childhood. Traditional Balinese dances are an important part of Balinese culture and identity.


The Legong Kraton, classified as an entertainment dance, is a very elaborate and beautiful dance performed by two to three female dancers.


Balinese traditional dances express the spirit of the Balinese people who seek balance in life, and each region has unique traditional dances that have been handed down through generations.


The Topeng Sidakarya, classified as semi-sacred dance, is performed by a dancer wearing a mask to neutralize the evil spirits.


The Baris, known as a sacred dance, is a religious dance performed by male dancers as a group to convey the heroic spirit.


Many of the movements of the traditional Balinese dances symbolize nature, such as plants and animals, and are deeply related to the history of Bali.


In order to fully express the role symbolized by the mask, it is necessary to study the role in depth.


Early Balinese traditional dance education took place in the homes of Masisils, or teachers.
Otherwise, it was also passed down in Sekaas, or village communities, and Banjars, traditional villages.


Balinese youths learning traditional dances to preserve the Balinese culture and traditions by becoming professional dancers.

Ngajat, Dance of the Iban People, Sarawak, Malaysia

Iban is a majority ethnic group living in the Sarawak region, located in the Northwestern part of Malaysian Borneo Island.
The Iban is traditionally known to be a very strong and courageous tribe.
According to anthropologists’ ethnography, Ibans have also been documented as having practiced the act of headhunting.
The Ngajat, a traditional dance of the Iban, portrays the Iban men’s bravery by lifting pieces of wood weighing 10kg with their mouth, and such dance movements show the agility and patience of the Iban warriors.


The Ngajat Lesong shows male Iban dancers with heavy pieces of wood weighing 10kg in their mouths.


The Ngajat Lesong dance can only be performed by men.


The dance symbolizes the strength, courage and perseverance of Iban men.


Ngajat Kuta is a dance performed together by male and female dancers.
It is performed to celebrate special occasions, such as cultural events of the Iban people.


Ngajat Ngalu Temuai is a dance performed by male and female dancers to welcome special guests.
It is mainly performed at the opening ceremonies of official events, such as festivals, attended by distinguished guests and the public.


In the past, the Iban people danced after returning from war.
Dancers jump in sync with the music to commemorate the victory of the war.

Lazgi, Khorazm Dance, Uzbekistan

Lazgi, a traditional dance that originated in the Khorazm region of Uzbekistan, is currently a national dance performed throughout Uzbekistan by reflecting the sounds and phenomena of nature, feelings of love and happiness.
Lazgi, which has been handed down from generation to generation through hundreds of years, is so attractive in its movements and melody that it makes the audience move together as well.
While dancing, the dancer and the audience all become one, in harmony.
The Lazgi is performed during important events in Uzbekistan, and is continually evolving through colorful and creative variations.


Ms. Dilnoza Artikova, the winner of Nihol Prize, and one of the best performers of Khorezm Lazgi in Uzbekistan.


The introduction of the Lazgi dance begins slowly.
The dancer first raises both arms, and poses towards the sun.

Next, the dancer begins to bend and shake her fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, torso, legs, and then the entire body.

The tempo of the dance gradually increases, expressing more energy and passion, then at the end gives out an ecstatic feeling full of pure joy and happiness.


One of the legends related to the Lazgi tells a story that a soul, enchanted by the Lazgi’s lively rhythm, entered a dead body and regained life.
The legend is about a soul and body that became united, thanks to the rhythm of the Lazgi.

A male dancer with humorous movements and expressions


Currently, the Lazgi is performed throughout Uzbekistan.


The Lazgi, performed in various ways at holidays, festivals, performances, concerts and family events, is transmitted even more actively through new interpretations and re-creation.