Saman Dance, Aceh

Among the wide range of dances from all over Indonesia, including in the category of saman dance art of dance is very interesting. Saman dance uniqueness lies in the cohesion of the movement that is amazing.

saman dance 3

Saman” the most popular dance in Aceh and the dance that has become well-known abroad with the name “Thousand hands”. It has its origin from the Alas ethnic group from Gayo plateau central Aceh and is normally performed to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad and other important occasions.

It’s an energetic, dynamic and requires excellent coordination among its players.  The movements are intense and powerful because, those movements also formed the rhythm for the dance.  Because beside the sound of claps, chest slapping or hand hitting the floor there’s only one person reading a narrative in Acehnese tone.   If it’s not powerful then nobody will hear anything and if it’s out of control, not only it will ruin the rhythm but somebody may get hurt.  However, those are the charm of this dance.  It’s dynamic and excellent coordination.

saman dance 4

Eight to twenty male performers kneel in a row on the floor and make different kinds of torso movements accompanied by songs, clapping hands, slapping chests, slapping hands on the floor, etc. The songs usually are praises to Allah or prayers or part of Islamic teachings. The dance starts with slow movements and increases its tempo gradually to great speed and finally come to a sudden stop. There are many different regional versions of “Saman”.

Saman dance is on call because it was created by a cleric named Sheikh Saman Aceh at around XIV century AD, from the Central Highlands. Originally, this dance is a folk game called Pok Ane and only displayed for certain events, especially when celebrating the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad SAW or warning called Birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Typically, saman dance is shown below under Meunasah (a type of surau stage).

saman dance

Currently, Saman’s performed not only related to the birthday of Prophet Muhammad or other Islamic holidays but it is also performed to promote Acehnese culture, so it’s performed to open cultural festivals, national ceremonies or even abroad to promote Indonesia as a whole.

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