“Saman” is the most popular dance in Aceh. It has become well-known abroad with the name “Thousand Hands”. Originated from the Alas ethnic group, the dance is normally performed to celebrate important events.
8 to 20 male performers kneel in a row on the floor and make different kind of torso movements, accompanied by songs, clapping hands slapping chests, slapping hands on the floor, etc. The dance starts with slow movements, then increases its tempo gradually to a great speed and finally it comes to a halt. There are many regional versions of the tari saman.
“Meuseukat” is almost the same as “Saman”. The only difference is that “Meuseukat” is performed by women. The songs usually describe prayers. It is performed by 11-20 young ladies. The main aspect of the dance include a series of hands, head, shoulder and torso movements.
The “Seudati” dance existed already in pre-islamic times. Eventually, it became a way to spread islamic values to the Acehnese people. The name can be derived from the “syahadatain” which means confession of faith.
Seudati is performed by 8 dancers, commanded by a leader (syech) and his assistant (apet syech). Two narrators read a poem. it is danced in a standing position and starts with”saleum” (salaam). Stepping feet , snapping fingers and beating of chestsaccompany the movements.
There are two kinds of Seudati:
Seudati Inong: Danced by young ladies wearing bright costumes. Seudati Agam: Danced by males.
“Rapai” is the name of the tambourine used to accompany used to accompany songs and dances. “Rapa-ie-Geleng” is a dance, especially developed with this tambourine in mind. The movements are almost the same as in the “Saman” dance. the 11 to 20 male dancers handle one tambourine each which gives the dance a very distinct flavor.
A song with islamic teachings accompanies the dance.
Tari Tarek Pukat
The “Tarek Pukat” depicts the life of the fishermen along Aceh’s coastal areas. Their activities of making nets, rowing the boat and catching the fish are all described in the dance.
The dance expresses hard work which is done cheerfully with a hope that they will catch a lot of fish. The dance is accompanied by songs or traditional musical instruments. Each dancer has a rope and during the dance these ropes are woven into a net.
Tari Likok Pulo
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This dance was created by an Arab religious scholar in 1949, Pulau Aceh. The 9 dancers will need extra energy to perform this dance since it starts from a lower tempo to the fastest one.
Ranub Lam Puan
“Ranub” is the Acehnese word for betel leaf. The leaf is used as an extra chewing after meals and therefor plays an important part in the life of the Acehnese. the leaf is also used as asign of respect to guests.
Serving betel leafs to guests as a dance has become a popular way of welcoming prominent guests to Aceh as well as part of opening ceremonies. 9 women perform the dance to the music from the “seurunee kalee” traditional musical instrument.
The dance is accompanied by “seurunee kalee”, its music is reminiscent of long-gone exotic Arabian nights. The dancers sing a welcoming song, beginning in the traditional islamic fashion: “Assalamu’alaikum…..”.
This dance is almost the same as the “Ranub Lam Puan” dance: It’s also performed to welcome guests to the province, a symbol of hospitality.
At the end of the dance the dancers come to the guests and give the “sirih” (betel leaf). The guests are expected to take the “sirih” but they do not have to eat it.
“Laweut” was developed in the early days of islam in the Pidie area. Laweut is also called “Seudati Inong” for its similarity to the Seudati dance. the dance is performed by 8 women with a “syech” (leader). Normally it is performed in a standing position, accompanied by songs, the sound of snapping fingers, stepping feet, beating thighs and clapping hands from the dancers.
Due to its popularity this dance is used for a variety of occations. There are 20 performers, 10 women and 10 men, accompanied by special tambourines. The dance is often followed by prayers.
“Didong” is the most popular Gayo dance. Dance groups of 20 to 40 men and women compete in different aspects of the dance, such as song, movement and voice. It can be performed at any find of occassion.