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HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF SUMATRAN DANCING

Like the Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese dances, described above, sumatran dancing too has developed in the course of time, accordance with the development of the society supporting it.

Based on the social structure of Indonesian in general and the social structure of Sumatran in particular, the development or history of Sumatran dancing can also be divided into three periods, the primitive period, the feudal period and the modern period.

In the period of Primitive Society, up to about 400 A.D., the features, form and nature of dances in the whole of Indonesia can be said to have been the same. The form of the dances was very simple, their nature holy or sacred and democratic in accordance with the form and nature of the Indonesian society of that time.

In the period of Feudal Society, however, the development of dancing in Sumatra was a bit different in comparison with that of Java and Bali. As the reader knows, the influence of Hindu culture on Java and Bali was very great, so that in spite of the penetration of Islam in the 15th century, Hindu culture still made its influence felt, and greatly affected the development of dancing in Java and Bali. In short, the development of dancing in Java and Bali during the feudal period, from 400 A.D. to 1945 was mostly still Hindu in essence, that is Hindu adapted to the indentity of the Indonesian people.

 

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At the beginning of the period of Feudal Society the Sumatran kingdoms were "Hindu in nature. The greatest Hindu-Indonesian kingdom in Sumatra, the Buddhist kingdom of Sriwijaya, was once the centre of development of Hindu science and culture.

When Islam entered Sumatra at the end of the 13th century, however, the elements of Hindu culture began to disappear gradually. Considering that in Sumatra elements of Hindu culture disappeared, whereas in Java and Bali they retained, the reader may ask whether there was a fundamental difference between the nature of society in Sumatra and that of Java and Bali. There is no fundamental difference, but there are certain features of the social structure of Sumatra which differentiate it from Java and Bali.

The geographical situation of Sumatra caused a great difference between its social fife and that of Java and Bali. During the feudal period agriculture was considered more important in Java and Bali, whereas. is Sumatra, because of the favourable position of the island, the importance of trade was emphasized. The group of free and independent merchants welcomed Islam as the religion which suited their way of life. Islam did not recognize the existence of classes in society and could be embraced by anyone and anywhere. The democratic nature of Islam caused it to penetrate quickly into the spiritual life of the Sumatrans, who felt that the Hindu religion was not longer suitable for them. Gradually the elements of Hindu culture became weaker and weaker and then disppeared altogether.

This conversion to Islam exercised a great influence on the, development of culture, especially dancing, in Sumatra. Little, by little dancing took on the essence and spirit of Islam and the Hindu. element disappeared.

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