Bell dance, a scared ritual performance ritual of the Dao Tien

(VOVWORLD) - Bell dance is a sacred performance in religious rites of the Dao Tien ethnic minority in Van Ho district, Son La province. The Dao Tien have preserved the bell dance from generation to generation as an indispensable feature of their cultural life.
Bell dance, a scared ritual performance ritual of the Dao Tien  - ảnh 1The Dao Tien perform bell dance at the Dao Culture Festival in 2019. (photo: VOV)



Bell dance is the main ritual at ceremonies such as the Fire Dance Festival, the Maturity Ceremony, and Tomb Sweeping Festival at the beginning of the year, the last farewell to the dead ceremony, and the crop praying ceremony.

Bell dance for the Fire Dance Festival is a Dao Tien ritual to thank their ancestors for saving villagers at sea in the past. They believe that the bell dance can help protect their family and clan and pass their prayers to the ancestors to bless them with a healthy and prosperous business.

Ban Thi Vinh of Suoi Lin hamlet said that when she was little, she learned bell dance from her grandparents and parents. All Dao Tien people can dance with bells. 

A bell dance group often has 8 men or 8 women standing in a circle. A dance can have many circles of men, women, and children. The dancers hold bells in their right hand and shake three times from the inside out and back while dancing three steps from left to right and one step back, then turning around to the initial position. They keep dancing until the end of the song. At the end of the dance, they change from a circle dance to a horizontal row and howl loudly.

Bell dance, a scared ritual performance ritual of the Dao Tien  - ảnh 2A bell dance of the Dao Tien (Photo: VOV)

Mrs. Vinh said: “Bell dance is a cultural uniqueness of the Dao Tien. I’m happy that our predecessors taught the dance to us and we’ll continue to preserve it for the future generations.”

Ban Van Senh is one of the first members of the bell dance team of Suoi Lin hamlet which was established in 2017. Suoi Lin hamlet has many art troupes of different ages. Senh’s bell dance group has 12 women from 55 to 60 years old. They are often invited to performance at district and city festivals. 

“The villagers trust me and assign me to lead the bell dance team for the Elderly Association of Suoi Lin village. It’s my honor and pride. I arrange my family work to make time to practice with other members. I always tell my children to learn and preserve cultural identity, especially the bell dance,” Senh said.

The Dao Tien in Van Ho district perform the bell dance not only for ceremonies in the hamlet but also at district and provincial festivals and cultural events. 

Ban Van Toan, head of Suoi Lin hamlet’s art troupe, said with the authority’s support, the Dao Tien have tried to preserve and promote their cultural traditions to a wider public. 

“I learned the bell dance from my grandparents and parents. Our group members and I practice a lot and we have mastered the dance. It’s a meaningful dance which helps young people understand our traditional culture and contribute to cultural preservation,” Toan said.

During festival season all Dao hamlets are joyful with the sound of the bell dance which helps community bonding.