Belonging to a community called “Iban” is a Southeast Asian dance form known as Ngajat. This renowned “family” dance is said to have originated from a state called Sarawak located in Malaysia. This dance is performed mainly during the annual festival known as “Gawai Dayak”. Furthermore, initially this dance was performed mainly after completion of war. In addition, this dance has basically been passed on from one generation to another within the Iban community.

a. History/origin of the Ngajat:

Although, the exact history behind the creation of this dance style is unclear, it is said to have been in existence since the 16th century. Apparently, it was initially performed mainly by warriors to celebrate victories achieved in battle. However, over the years this dance has mainly been performed socially mainly during an annual harvest festival known as “Gawai Dayak”.

b. Nagajat dance styles include:

  1. Induk Ngajat
  2. The Main Ngajat
  3. The Ngajat Berayah
  4. Ngajat Bebunoh: Performed by the community’s young men, this dance is a recreation or repetition of the actions that men take in the presence of foes or while going about their daily lives, such as hunting.
  5. Ngajat Lesong: Because male dancers must dance while “biting the fly,” only men are permitted to perform the Ngajat Lesong. This dance calls for courage and strength because the fly, which weighs 40 pounds, must be carried by the dancers by biting it.
  6. Ngajat Pua Kumbu: Typically carried out by females. The dancers would perform while using Pua kumbu (an Iban floral fabric), as the name of this dance implies, as a prop. Typically, this dance is presented during Gawai Kelingkang. Dancers would greet a parade of warriors carrying an enemy’s head as they approached the longhouse during the celebration of Gawai Kelingkang, which was held to mark the completion of the infamous Ngayau (headhunting) or to prepare for it. The Pua Kumbu dancers lead the procession toward the “tanju” while shouting their victory and making a bat sound (outer platform of the longhouse). A pig will be offered to the ancestors before the procession of maidens reaches the ceremony’s stage. The warrior will then follow the pua Kumbu dancers in continuing to swing the adversary’s head. The victim’s head will be hung from a tree after seven rounds. Today, a coconut is used as a substitute for the enemy’s head.
  7. Ngajat Kuta: Another dance performance that combines male and female dancers is Ngajat Kuta. It is typically performed to mark special occasions like the start of Iban cultural events.
  8. Ngemai Antu pala Ngajat: Ngajat is an Iban welcome dance performed on Gawai Day, before battles, and after harvest. After their return from the war, they used to perform the dance. As the music plays, dancers jump while standing on the circle. Drums are played for the honored guests during Gawai Sandau Ari. Another variation involves the dancer facing the enemy while swinging his body to the left and the right while holding a wooden shield in his left hand and a sword in his right.
  9. Ngajat Ngalu Temuai: Presented to welcome distinguished visitors. This dance is typically performed at the start of a formal event that is open to the public and attended by many distinguished guests. The dance is performed as guests are led to the longhouse leader. Visitors who arrive at the long house during Gawai or other festivals are welcomed with this dance.

c. Costumes used in the Ngajat:

The costumes used in this dance vary according to the gender, and they are as follows:

1. For males:

The attire worn includes traditional costumes such as mesh or Gagung, which essentially is a thick armor made from animal skin such as a bear. Furthermore, hats decorated with feathers are also used.

2. For females:

Female dancers known as “kumang,” the attire worn includes a headdress, hooks on the chest, a cloth tied around the waist, foot bracelets, and earrings.

d. Music involved in the Ngajat:

The musical instruments used in this dance include large and medium gongs known as “bebendai”, drums also known as dedumba, and a set of small gongs called “engkurumong”.

e. Training availability and technique involved in the Ngajat:

In terms of technique, the performers initially arrange themselves in a circle. Furthermore, this dance involves the use of extremely slow as well as exaggerated prances like movements in accordance with the rhythm of the accompanying music which is mainly composed using percussion instruments. As for training centers/schools, there are none available around the world since this “family” dance is mainly performed in the state of Sarawak in Malaysia.

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