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The Ngajat Dance

[ English ]

Country :
Malaysia
ICH Domain :
Performing Arts
Location :
The State of Sarawak, Malaysia
Description :
The origin of this ethnic group dance is not known but it is strongly believed to be in existence along with the Iban ethnic group since the 16th Century. The Ngajat dance is believed to been performed by warriors on their return from battles. This dance is now performed to celebrate the most significant harvest festival called ‘Gawai’, to welcome important guests to the longhouses for the celebration. The male dancers wear large feathers as part of their headgear, hold an ornate and long shield in their hand with chains, beads and a loincloth called the ‘cawat’. The female dancers have an elaborate headdress, chains, beads and a ‘dress’ that reaches to below their knees with intricate weaving. Traditionally this dance was only performed by male dancers but been innovated and perform by all. The dance is arranged in straight lines and a circle and does involve dramatic leaps and jumps performed by the male dancers. Gongs and other ethnic percussion instruments such as the ‘enkeromong’, ‘bendai’, ‘canang’ and ‘dumbak’ or ‘ketebong’ assemble the music. There are in fact several types of Ngajat dances, such as Ngajat Induk, Ngajat Bebunoh, Ngajat Lesong, Ngajat Semain, Ngajat Berayah and Ngajat Ngemai Antu Pala.

The ‘Ngajat Lesung’ for example is one of the famous Iban traditional Ngajat dance in Sarawak. The knees are bent and kept close together as they twist from side to side, ending with a simple tap of the heel on the ground. The arms move from left to right in front of the body. The dance is done gracefully. The hornbill, an iconic bird of Sarawak, symbolizing all the movements. The male dancer in this dance represents the warrior who shows off his strength by biting a wooden mortar called the ‘lesung kayu’ with his teeth while dancing. It weighs about seven kilogrammes.
Transmission method :
formal /academic/ and informal training /apprenticeship training
Information source :
사진이 없을경우 대체 이미지가 나옵니다.
The Malaysia Arts Cultural Practitioners Association (MACPA)