Dances of Sabah and Sarawak
Perhaps the region of Malaysia which is most blessed with forms of dance is Sabah and Sarawak. The sheer variety reflects the many different ethnic groups of the land. The Sumazau is often regarded as the state dance of Sabah. It is simple, yet graceful and evocative, as the dancers, clad in authentic Kadazan black velvet sway like birds to the sound of gongs. In the neighbouring state of Sarawak , Datun Julud, a female dance of the Orang Ulu tribe of Sarawak is performed with typical grace and beauty with a distinct costume that include feathers that are attached to the hands giving the impression of birds in flight. The movement vocabulary simply focuses on changing weight from one leg to the other in an almost pedestrian manner making it earthbound while the use of the arms gives it a lifted and light impression. As for Kanjet Ngeleput, this dance is also from the orang Ulu tribe of Sarawak. The dance of a male warrior is largely improvised deriving and depicting the activity of hunting. The manner of placing and transference of weight is particularly interesting, beginning with the heel and through the outside of the foot while the arms maintain a gentle swaying quality but is fairly straight.
The expressive power of dance as an art form has endured for centuries, in many different parts of the world. Malaysia, with her rich intermingling of cultures, has a particularly rich and varied dance heritage.
Whether performed by Malays, Chinese, Indians or by the people of Sabah and Sarawak, each performance is a rich tapestry which weaves together exquisite costumes and equally delicate and expressive movements. Whether telling a story, celebrating life itself, the Dances of Malaysia are among our most cherished and cultural traditions.