Dances form a vital element in the zest and joy of living of the tribal people, they vary from highly stylised religious dance dramas of the Buddhists to the martial steps and colourfal performances of the Noctes and Wanchos. During a dance, the people put on their best traditional costumes, decorate their spears and daos, paint new designs and adom themselves with multicoloured beads and ornaments. The dances performed by the tribes can be broadly divided into four groups: Ritual, Festive, Recreational and Pantomime.
Ritual dances form part of a rite performed to secure prosperity of the community, to reap a good harvest, to seek peace for a departed soul or to promote fertility. Festive dances form recreational part of the people during festival. Recreational dances are performed on occasions to inspire the participants to express their mirth through gay rhythms. Pantomimes or dance-dramas narrate a mythical story or illustrate a moral and are mainly educative in purpose.
Below is a brief description of the Dances of Arunachal Pradesh:
Adi: Ponung. Taapu, Eme-relo, Boi-take, Yakjong, etc.
Aka: Niechu dou, Dogoh dou
Apatani: Paktu-Itu, Demindu, Busidu or Amualu, Taktamo, Haruk Handu, etc.
Hill Miri: Boyen or Kuba Tondone, Pojuh, Nifin, Ponung Kakong Tokai, Kachang Aluwang, Ka-Fifai dance drama, Ka- Mukcho
Khamba: Troh, Guru Chanji Pantomime, Padi or Sethoh pantomime
Khowa: Gasisiu, Clown, etc.
Miji: Dumai, Jei etc
Mishmi: Idu, Ah-ih, Mesala, Digaru-Beeiya, Nuiya
Memba: Broh dance, Bardo pantomime.
Monpa: Yak, Lion & Peacock,Sonyi-Yalo, Deer pantomime, Ajilamu panto- mime, Broh and other monastic dances.
Nishing: Rikhambada, Northon, Buiya Sodan, etc.
Nocte: Laku Bawang, Mang buong, Ramvan buong, etc.
Singpho: Manglup ceremony and dance.
Sherdukpen: Jam or Bardo, Yak pantomime, Jik Charm or Seeh pantomime Brohpu, etc
Tagin: Si Ome, Nibutamu dance, etc.
Thangsa: Moh festival dance, Sapoloso dance, Wancho Ozele, Hambowshon
This is the dance of the Adis. This folk dance is performed before harvesting, by teams of young girls in perfect rhythmic unison.
This is a war dance of the Adis. It is based on the myth of a struggling life of Tani (man) for survival, which was once attacked by his enemies to crush his supremacy. He was saved from the peril by Gumin Soying who was appointed as his guardian by his divine protectors, Doying
Bote and Kiine Naane.
This is the dance of Gallong Adis that shows the action and movement of the
rivers. It is popular among the womenfolk of the Adis of West Siang district.
This traditional dance is performed during the Aaran festival which is the New Year festival of the Adis. To spread the message of brotherhood the children go round the village from house to house collecting rice, meat, etc. for feast after the festival.
It is a traditional dance resembling monkey dance. The dance is based on a mythology, that there were four brothers-Niinur Bote (a blacksmith). Robo (an evil spirit), Tani man) and Beesung (monkey), sons of Pedong Naane, and there was great secret enmity between the brothers. In one instance Beesung kilied Niinur Bote secretly with an arrow on instigation from Robo.
It is usually performed by the Khamfis of Lohit district during the time of various festivals. This dance depicts their traditional way of receiving a guest
This dance is performed by Khamtis of Lohit district to hail the guests and
VIPS on various occasions and festivals.
This happy dance belongs to the Aka youths of West Kameng. They sing and dance collectively glorifying the beauty of flowers and omnipotence of the creator.
This dance is performed by the Apatanis who lived in the scenic Ziro piateau known for paddy cultivation, who believed that their first paddy seedlings were gifted to them by the wife of their forefather Abotani. They also believed that the sown seedlings were in danger of being eaten by the three birds Pakicu, Parii and Pagi Yaru. This dance depicts the games played between these birds and children engaged to protect the seedlings
This artistic dance belongs to the Apatanis. It is performed during the Dree festival to celebrate the beginning of rice planting season when the people prey for a good harvest and protection from natural calamities.
This popular folk dance is staged by the Tagins of Upper Subansiri district. It is generally performed by the womenfolk during their Si-Donyi festival. The song accompanied by the dance is a prayer to the goddess for bountiful crops.
This medley of dances and songs is collectively performed by one of the largest tribes, the Nishis of Lower Subansiri district during their main Nyokum festival. It is said that these dances were introduced by their migrated forefathers Abotani. The songs and dances are performed to honour various Gods, some songs are in the form of ballads depicting legends of love which were performed by women traditionally to please their husbands. Rikhampada is one of the most popular dances in the state.
It is a popular folk dance among the Monpas and Sherdukpens of Tawang and West Kameng districts. Through this dance, the Tibetan version of Ramayana has been depicted. There are five characters in this move each having a fanciful starting point. They are Jalee, the Chief protagonist, Nyapo the antagonist, Nyarok and two other female characters Lhama and Lhumu. Lhamu was the fairy from heaven who later became the queen of Jale. The dance also depicts the story of Lhamu’s marriage to the King Gepu Chong Norjung represented by Jalee.
The dance belongs to the Monpa of West Kameng district. It is performed during the New Year Festival, (Losar) to welcome the guests.
It is one of the famous dances amongst the Monpas of Tawang district. It is performed by both boys and girls to welcome and pay honour to the visiting dignitaries.
Llon and peacock:
This dance belongs to Monpas. The lion dance symbolises that prosperity comes when there is complete harmony and cooperation between all living things on this earth. It depicts the unique friendship between a saint meditating in the mountains and the snow lions and peacock who gives him company and nourishment.
It is a popular dance of the Buddhist tribes, particularly the Monpas and Sherdukpens. The masked dancers represent the members of a family who have probably discovered the Yak with the help of a magical bird. The Yak is looked upon as the provider of permanent source of wealth and prosperity because it is a multipurpose animal.
This dance belongs to the Miji community of Kameng district. It is performed by the womenfolk to receive visitors in their village.
Jam dance or Bardo:
This dance is widely performed by the Sherdukpens in the Kameng district. The masked dancers dance to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals believing that they can vanquish the evil spirits through the medium of this Jam dance.
It is basically a priest dance of the Idu Mishmis of Dibang Valley district. The dance depicts the action of a priest who, with his divine powers, tries to discover the cause of sickness of a person and seek solution for its cure. He performed the necessary rites and sacrifices
This dance is performed during the annual festival of the Moklum group of the Tangsas in the Changlang district. Mol means, to dance, and the festival itself is associated with dancing and merrymaking. The dance narrates the origin of human beings and other objects. The God Farah is prayed for granting peace, prosperity, happiness and long life to all the villagers. The Mol festival falls in the month of April-May, just after sowing of paddy and before the harvesting of millet takes place.
It is a sort of death dance. The dance belongs to the Idu Mishmis of Dibang Valley district. They perform this dance when there is any death in tribal wars or fighting. Both the victor and victimized families perform the same ceremony with a view to succeeding either in taking revenge or to prevent any such revengeful action by the other party.
This festival is celebrated by the Nocte tribe of the Tirap district. It is performed in praise of the unity and strength of the village society. The dance also describes the beauty of the Nocte land, its flowers, forests and animals as well.