July 28, 2010

Saman "Thousand hands" dance

When I was little, being a diplomat's daughter, it was common for me to learn various traditional Indonesian dances at the embassy. One popular dance is the Saman dance which originates from the Aceh province.

Not only at the embassies, Indonesian student bodies/organizations also often perform this dance when promoting Indonesia because
the basic movements in Saman are simple so those who have no dancing background at all can easily join as long as they are not "rhythmically impaired". The dance movements contain movements of clapping and slapping your hands to your body with the pace starting out slowly and then progressively becoming faster before coming to a stop. The dance emphasizes on the dancers ability to move as one. So the more dancers, the more visually appealing the dance becomes. Maybe that is why the english name for the dance is known as "thousand hands" dance.

If you google "Saman dance" on youtube, you will see many variations of the dance movements. I guess because so many organizations have performed the dance, over the years, many new movements were thought up to make it more interesting. I've also noticed that they've now added drums in the background and it does give the dance a more dramatic feel.

I tried to find one videoclip that most resembles the movements I myself have learnt from my embassy days. But in this clip, they varied the movements so that you see them splitting up and forming a line again. Usually after the dancers form a line, they stay that way.

A more original form of the dance can be seen in this video:

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