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Traditional Dance in Sri Lanka and China

Dance in Sri Lanka
Concept of dancing in Sri Lanka originated in fear of natural power which people regarded as the
supernatural building. Dance was then initiated in Sri Lanka during the 4th century B.C for the purpose
of expelling natural disasters, sickness and so on. At the end of Polonnaruwa period (15th century
A.D.), South Indian influence came into Sri Lanka and was adopted in Sri Lanka folk dancing. In the
course of time, a dancing form was developed and varied from each other according to regional and
local traditions. Nowadays, there are three principal dancing forms that can be seen in Sri Lanka:
Kandyan Dancing: This form of dance has developed from the period of Kandyan kings and today is
regarded as the national dance of Sri Lanka. The dance imitates movements of animals as there are
dancing of elephant and peacock, for example, and also depicts scenes of Ramayana epic or stories of
kings and heroes. The costumes of Kandyan dancers are striking; male dancers wear a skirt-like
garment with their bare chests decorated with exquisitely silver regalia and spectacular headgear; silver
bangles are also worn on the arms and ankles. The performance is companied with hectic rhythms of
drums called “Geta beraya”.
The Kandyan Dance is traditionally performed to percussion only. The most common drum is the Geta
Beraya, which is only used in Kandyan Dance. To assist the dancer to keep rhythm a small pair of
cymbals knows as the Thalampota is also used. The Vannam’s however have lyrics that are sung in tune
with the movements of the dancer. These lyrics sing about the virtues of the animal that the Vannam is
Low country dance:
Dance in low country is highly ritualistic. This form of dance is performed to appease evil spirits which
cause sickness. The dancers wear masks depicting many characters varied in forms of bird, demons,
reptiles, etc.
The dancers wear an elaborate costume including a headdress. The dancer’s chest is only covered by a
decorative beaded net. This costume is known as the Ves costume. The headress incorporates a metallic
front which makes the dancer look taller than he is. The complete costume also includes anklets that
produce a metallic rattle each.
Low country show the killing by the Gurula (a bird) of a cobra. This is usually performed to drive away
evil spirits and is still being used as a method of psychiatric treatment.
Sabaragamuwa Dance
The dances are usually performed in Ratnapura, relating to the worshipping of God Saman much
revered by local people.
Chinese traditional dance
The Chinese national dance culture has a long history. The track record of images and text cultural
relics of the Chinese traditional dance is never extinguished during the past 5,000 years' history. This
phenomenon is also rare in the culture history of the world.
About five or six thousand years ago, in the Neolithic age, the Chinese showed the groupment and selfentertainment of the original dance. In order to maintain and continue their life, human must create
material wealth and spirit wealth through labor. So, working is the most basic and important social
activities of human beings. Deeply rooted in the daily life of human, the dance must reflect the content
of labor.
Prehistoric Chinese dance originated from religion. Shamanist performs various religious ritual
involving dances. Dance was merely a religious ritual rather than a form of entertainment art. During
Zhou dynasty, there was great development of Chinese dance in the form of rites and large-scale royal
religious ceremony. The dance was known as “Yue Wu” accompanied by music performance known as
“Ya Yue”. There are two particular schools of dance, known as “Big Dance” and “Small Dance”.
During Han dynasty, there were greater developments of dance as forms of entertainment. Professional
training and the innovation of new gadgets used for dance were created. The Tang dynasty saw another
peak development in Chinese dance. Tang dynasty dance was built on the foundation of the Han
dynasty’s “Hundred performance” and a blend between foreign and Chinese culture during Age of
fragmentation. After Song dynasty, Chinese folks dance began to rise up as the more popular dance.
Various ancient dances began to disappear. The development of opera-dance as a form of entertainment
during Yuan dynasty began to take toot. By Ming and Qing dynasty, opera dance became a mature form
of entertainment art. By ROC and PRC period, musicals dance became a popular form of entertainment
The group characteristics of Chinese traditional dance mainly express in three aspects: the creation, the
performance, and the spread. Chinese traditional dance come from the folk. Added gradually with the
rapid movement, the harmony step and the unified rhythm, the Chinese traditional dance expresses the
folks` need of emotion release in the way of pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy.
Lion/Dragon Dance
The lion dance is one of the most distinctive Chinese cultural arts. It is often mistakenly referred to as
dragon dance. An easy way to tell the difference is that a lion is operated by two people, while a dragon
needs many people. Also, in a lion dance, the performers` faces are covered, since they are inside the
lion. In a dragon dance, the performers can be seen since the dragon is held upon poles.
Basic lion dance fundamental movements can be found in most Chinese martial arts. It brings good
fortune. The lion dance is usually performed by group of two or three people. One is at the head and
one is at the tail of the lion. The third person usually wears a mask and acts as the “Happy Buddha”.
Lion dances can be categorized into two styles, Chinese Northern and Chinese Southern.
In northern dance, the lion is usually red, orange and yellow, shaggy in appearance with big golden
head; The Chinese Northern dance was used as entertainment for the imperial court and elsewhere with
dangerous stunts.
The Chinese Southern dance is more symbolic which usually performed as a ceremony to scare away
evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The southern lion exhibits a wide variety of color and has
a distinctive head with large eyes, a mirror on the forehead, and a single horn at center of the head.
Lion dance costumes are considered to be spiritually protective when used as they are traditionally
blessed before usage.
Ribbon Dance
The traditional Chinese ribbon dance is a classical Chinese dance dated back to the Tang dynasty in the
early eighth century. It has been attributed to Emperor Tang-Ming-Hwon and his consort Yang-GweiFei for their musical and dancing talent respectively. The Chinese legend has it that Emperor TangMing-Hwon once dreamed that he was in the moon palace with many fairies singing and dancing in
multicolored cloud-like long robes. The dance with the flowing silk ribbons and accompanied by
Chinese instruments- Erhu and Pipa is characterized by its refreshing and poetic mood.
Yangko Dance
The Yangko dance is a traditional Chinese folk dance. The dance is smooth and compact in rhythm,
featuring its jolly scene, abundant dance language, exuberant gestures, and vivid performing style. The
Yangko dance was created by the farmers when they worked in the rice field in the Song Dynasty, and
is used to worship god of farming to pray for harvest in ancient times. Year after year, the Yangko
dance constantly absorbed techniques and forms from farming songs, folk songs, folk Kungfu,
acrobatics and dramas. Because of the differences of regions and customs, some variations exist in the
Yangko dances. There are three types of performance in Chinese Yangko dance: the song-and-dance
duets, Yangko performed on the ground and Yangko preformed on the stilts.
In addition dance is a reflection of what is happening within a certain environment or culture, As our
world continues to diversify and different cultures come into exposure with one another. Therefore,
dance is a powerful reflection of the cultural changes that are taking place in our world.