Saman, known as the dance of a thousand hands, is a popular tribal folk dance from (the equatorial island country) Indonesia, typically performed to celebrate special occasions.
Originally performed by men and without any musical instruments, the dance has evolved to include women as well as musical accompaniment in some groups. It has also grown to become such a recognized cultural symbol of the country that UNESCO officially recognized the dance as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, in 2011.
Local women dancing the traditionally all male dance.
It has also won the ASEAN Tourism Association (ASEANTA) best ASEAN cultural preservation effort at the 25th ASEANTA Awards for Excellence in 2012.
The dance hails from the Gayo ethnic group from Gayo Lues, Aceh province, Sumatra. Partly in response to restrictions from local Sharia law, local officials are hoping to attract tourists to the Aceh area by attempting to break a record of 10,000 men performing the dance simultaneously.
These men aim to break a world record with 10,000 dancers performing the dance of a thousand hands at once in this mesmerizing display.
Saman is well known and practiced throughout Indonesia in part due to its sheer simplicity, and is distinguished by its unique presentation. Upon entering the stage, dancers immediately take formation into a single file line and sit in Japanese seiza manner, (kneeling on both knees with legs folded under). Some dancers provide accompaniment by singing or chanting along with precisely synchronous hand and upper body movements. Often beginning with synchronous mid-tempo, rhythmic claps, body slaps and hand gestures, as the song progresses, the speed of the movements increases, along with the amount of upper body parts utilized.The minimalist, isolated hand movements evolve into more dramatic movements of the head and upper torso.
The Gamela USA team performs at Hip-Hop event in Washington D.C.
The kneeling dancers manage to create hypnotizing imagery with the slightest shift in kneeling position, turn of their head or other small gesture, none of which includes (using the legs while standing like most dances). Saman dancers create cascading wave like patterns and movements that morph into jaw dropping shapes and formations just by staggering certain movements and their positions in line. While some upper body movements are grandiose, others are so minimal that one could easily miss it while blinking, yet each carefully placed step adds something special to the overall performance.
Dancers from Jakarta, Indonesia perform in Portugal.
Watching these colorful, uniformly dressed performers is a treat, particularly when in large groups like the 10,000 men who set out to break the record just this week.
A short song and dance number can last up to 15-20 minutes. So just imagine the cramps and discomfort one might feel after kneeling in place for that long. Despite how achy and cramped they might feel upon standing after kneeling for so long, the dancers keep laser sharp focus and precision throughout, all while preserving an important part of their cultural history for all to share.
Breathtaking, eye-catching, synchronous movements with over 6,000 participants not missing a beat.