Contrary to Abba’s words, not only seventeen-year olds can be dancing queens. Everyone can be, and these traditional dances from around the world prove that. Traditional dances are a sight to behold. They’re not done just for the aesthetics, but to preserve cultures and remind people of their humble origins as well.
Indonesia – Kecak Dance
The Kecak is the famous fire dance originating from Bali, Indonesia. It is a popular cultural attraction for local and international tourists alike due to the amazing display of colorful costumes and elaborate fire structures.
This traditional dance is a portrayal of a war between Prince Rama with his monkey army, and the evil Rahwana. The dancers move to the tune sung by themselves.
It’s usually performed at dusk to emphasize the fire attractions. To do the Kecak, 150 men wearing Balinese sarongs sit around a fire structure. In the middle are the priest, Rama, Shinta (Rama’s wife), the Monkey King, Rahwana, and Sugriwa, a Buddhist god.
Italy – Tarantella
The Tarantella is a couple folk dance that involves light, quick steps, and flirtatious & teasing behavior. The female dancers usually carry tambourines as they groove to the sound. The dance is traditionally performed during celebrations, especially weddings.
This traditional dance was believed to cure a specific sickness caused by tarantula bites, hence the name Tarantella. As time passed by, it also became a dance of courtship. In this version, the woman uses liveliness to spark the love of her partner. In return, the man tries to charm her with elegance and tenderness.
The Philippines – Tinikling
Tinikling is the oldest dance in the Philippines. It involves bamboo poles that are moved simultaneously. The original version includes two poles only, but a variation involves four poles in a criss-cross position.
Each pair, consisting of a male and a female, has to dance to the rhythm while the bamboo poles are moving at their feet. The dancers have to maintain composure as they have to avoid getting their ankles caught between the bamboo poles.
Ukraine – Hopak
Hopak is a traditional dance with a Ukranian origin. Its first version only involved males. As it became more popular, Hopak was danced by soloists, couples, and groups.
What makes this traditional dance interesting is that it doesn’t have a fixed set of steps. Men usually improvise steps in the form of high leaps, turns, and squat kicks. On the other hand, women do simple steps by swaying, clapping, and going in circles. Additionally, complex acrobatic movements are common in stage versions of Hopak.
Japan – Kabuki
Kabuki is a traditional dance accompanied with drama. The amazing mix of dance, music, mime, and costumes made it popular in Japan for more than four centuries. The dance drama is also a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, which makes locals and foreigners flock to see Kabuki live.
Kabuki is a visual spectacle that emphasizes looks more than the plot. The set design, music, and dance steps were all carefully crafted to produce a breathtaking show.
Russia – Barynya
The Barynya of Russia is a traditional dance characterized by extremely energetic moves. It is accompanied by chastushka, which is a folk song with a high beat frequency. Chastushkas are full of humor, irony, or satire.
The female dancers wear embroidered Russian dresses and headgears. On the other hand, the male dancers don shirts, loose trousers, and boots with high heels. The dance has a non-complex choreography, with simple steps such as foot stomping and knee bending.
Mongolia – Tsam Dance
The Tsam Dance of Mongolia is a Tibetan Buddhist dance that includes characters of Buddhist legends and animals that symbolizes both good and bad. Seeing dancers wear lion, crow, or deer costumes are a common sight during a Tsam performance.
Historically, a Tsam dance was done at the beginning of the year to exorcise evil. Nowadays, the dance is mainly believed to bring good fortune. All dancers are required to wear masks (most of which cover the whole head) and elaborate costumes that take many days to perfect.
England – Abbots Bromley Horn Dance
The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is an English folk dance that’s believed to be the oldest one, with an age of more than 1,000 years. This traditional dance is performed each year on the first Monday after September 4 in the Staffordshire village.
During the dance, six people carry the horns. They are accompanied by a musician with a violin or accordion. The Maid Marian (a man in a dress), the Hobby horse, the Jester (a young person with a bow & arrow), and another young person with a triangle complete the ensemble.
Traditionally, all of the dancers have to be males, but modern versions of the dance allow girls to carry triangles, bows, and arrows.