Parts of society use traditional dances to complete certain cultural activities, ceremonies, or celebrations. It is not different with the Papuans because they used to perform a war dance when there was a war against another tribe. Also known as the Falabea dance, the dance holds an important meaning due to its connection with tribal members’ heroic deeds.
This type of dance could ignite someone’s fighting spirit with paired music and song. However, the dance is no longer served for war but as a kind gesture to welcome tourists or commemoration. Despite this, the dance still has a sacred significance attached to it.
How is a War Dance Choreography?
This particular dance requires a minimum of 7 men or more to make a performance in groups. They will dance the movement in an open field, usually in the late afternoon or evening. The dancers need to wear skirts created from leaves and roots and painted their bodies with Papuan motifs. The other accessories include a signature headgear, necklace, feathered bracelet, and a weapon (an arrow, bow, or spear). The dancers use their hands to either hold a pair of bow and spear or arrow and bow.
Since the dance portrays a heroic deed, the choreography is energetic with several scenarios or arrangements. In the beginning part, warriors do surveillance on the enemy by the order of a village chief. Next, warriors will dance and sing because of joy after the successful attempt to surveillance and attack the enemies. The warriors can run in unison pretending to attack the enemy with arrows. Lastly, a group of women will greet and welcome the warriors by splashing water on them.
The last part serves as a salute to the warriors because they have bought a victory from war. All the choreography includes the movement of legs and body with the formation changed from a circle to a straight line.
Several Meanings of the War Dance to Papuans
Heroism and Expression of Gratitude
In the old days, tribal wars were quite common in the land of Papua since the tribe’s diversity was so large. Whenever a conflict arose, a village chief could wage a war against other tribes. The dance was used to encourage the warriors before setting off. It was a token of heroism.
Even now, this meaning still persists to commemorate the fallen warriors. The act of preserving the dance to the current day offers the Papuans a chance to express their gratitude. This might indicate their gratitude for the life that has been given or for the happenings around them.
A Sense of Belonging and Identity
Papuans have an apparent character in which they reinforce tribal or community values. In addition, an emergence of a new tradition or culture could grant the people a sense of belonging attached to the dance. They come together as one under this scenario. The dance can be said as another facet of identity that creates this meaning.
As an Asset of Culture
Due to the change of use, the dance also has a change of meaning. Right now, it mostly functions as a cultural asset of the Papuans. The dance is essential for them to introduce, promote and show one of the special cultures to the guests or tourists. Not only the movement or meaning but also the accessories of the dance depicts the Papuans’ uniqueness.
The war dance is a legacy from Papuans’ ancestors made to boost tribal members’ resolve and valor. The tradition and dance’s purpose has shifted from being performed near the war period to welcoming tourists and showing their gratitude. It has become a special appeal of the culture thus, help the Papuans to introduce, promote, and preserve their culture.