Record-breaking Aceh dance pro­motes unity

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

More than 10,000 peo­ple turned out in In­done­sia's Aceh yes­ter­day to stage a record-breaking song and dance per­for­mance stress­ing the need to con­serve a threat­ened na­tional park in the west­ern­most prov­ince. The men, clad in elab­o­rate black and yel­low tra­di­tional cos­tumes, sat in neat rows, clap­ping their hands on their shoul­ders and laps and mov­ing in an in­creas­ingly fast-paced rhythm to a tra­di­tional song.

The saman, or "the dance of a thou­sand hands", is one of the coun­try's most pop­u­lar. In 2011 it was in­cluded in the UNESCO list of items of in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage. The event was aimed at at­tract­ing more vis­i­tors to the prov­ince, the head of the lo­cal tourism agency, Syafrud­din, told AFP. The men, mostly from the eth­nic Gayo com­mu­nity, made oc­ca­sional wave-like move­ments with­out breaking for­ma­tion.

Their song fo­cused on the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the prov­ince's Mount Leuser Na­tional Park, home to rare Su­ma­tran tigers and ele­phants, which is threat­ened by ram­pant poach­ing and rain­for­est de­struc­tion due to the ex­pan­sion of pal­moil plan­ta­tions. Thou­sands of spec­ta­tors flocked to an open field tucked amid lush green hills in Gayo Lues district to watch the per­for­mance.

The In­done­sian Mu­seum of Record cer­ti­fied it as breaking a na­tional record with 10,001 par­tic­i­pants - beat­ing last year's record of 6,600. The dance is usu­ally ac­com­pa­nied by a song per­formed in uni­son. It em­pha­sizes team­work, a sym­bol of unity. "In the old days the lyrics were usu­ally about spread­ing Is­lamic teach­ings. These days we can ad­just the lyrics to de­liver any mes­sage we wish to con­vey to the au­di­ence," Syafrud­din said.

Aceh's in­ter­na­tional im­age has been tar­nished by its pub­lic pun­ish­ments un­der Sharia law, such as can­ing for ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. "I am very im­pressed with the per­for­mance, the dancers syn­chro­nized very well and it makes me proud as an In­done­sian. It was in­cred­i­ble," said Sarah, a vis­i­tor from Jakarta.

— AFP pho­tos

Men take part in a rehearsal of a mass tra­di­tional Saman dance per­for­mance in the Gayo Lues high­land district in Aceh on In­done­sia's Su­ma­tra is­land on Satur­day.

Res­i­dents (top) watch par­tic­i­pants take part in the mass tra­di­tional Saman dance per­for­mance.

Par­tic­i­pants take part in a mass tra­di­tional Saman dance per­for­mance yes­ter­day.

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