Folk Dance in East Malaysia

 

Folk Dance is very much alive in the Eastern Malaysian States of Sabah and Sarawak.

These States have many different Indigenous Groups such as Ibans, Kenyahs, Bidayuhs, Kadazans, Bajaus and Muruts.

Since there are so many groups with different beliefs and thus there exist numerous festivals and ceremonies.

There is therefore an uncountable number of dances that are performed.

As with most ethnic cultures around the world, the people held strong animistic beliefs and many were pagans.

The spread of both Islam and Christianity has not totally eradicated this but in fact a certain amount of assimilation of these beliefs has occurred.

The movement vocabulary of most ethnic dance is fairly simple and the dance phrases and sequences are often repeated.

The beauty lies in its simplicity.

The style is fairly relaxed and appears to be without tension or too much muscular action.

Very often the dance movement depicts nature, life in the jungle, movement of the birds and other daily activities.

The uniqueness of the dances from Sabah and Sarawak can also be seen in the beautiful costumes of both the dancers and the musicians. The costumes are very ornate, often with an elaborate headgear and other accessories like beads, chains, coins that indicate the tribe of origin and status within the tribe.

The musical instruments are also different from that of west Malaysia.

Primarily a 4 stringed, elongated guitar for the Sarawakian Dance and the Kulintanfan for the Sabahan Dance. These instruments are mostly handmade and very artistic.

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