Zapin Dance – Indonesia is a country known for its rich diversity of cultures, traditions
and customs. Some cultures are hereditary heritage that have existed since ancient times.
However, there are also several cultures and arts that were born from acculturation or a mixture of
This cultural mix ultimately creates a new art. One example of culture and art born from this
acculturation process is the zapin dance. This dance originates from Riau Province and is
popular in Bengkulu, Riau, and other areas in central Indonesia.
This dance, which originates from a province called Lancang Kuning, has been passed down from generation to
generation and has never been replaced or displaced by the times. Based on its past history,
the zapin dance is a dance that originates from the amalgamation of two cultures. The culture
is typical Malay culture and typical Arabic culture.
The acculturation of these two different cultures occurred because in the past many Arabs came to the Riau
region who then lived and settled there. These two cultures eventually complement and influence
each other in various fields.
One of the areas most affected by its influence is the arts. This includes dance, music,
literature, and so on. It was in this dance that the zapin dance was born which later became
the traditional Malay dance from Riau.
The word zapin itself comes from Arabic, namely Zafn . The word has the meaning of fast
foot movements and follows the beat of the rhythmic beat. This dance is performed in groups
accompanied by two main musical instruments, namely gambus and marwas which are shaped like small
According to Gendhis Paradisa, in his book entitled Encyclopedia of Art & Culture of the
Archipelago , the zapin dance is usually used by the community as a tool and medium for Islamic
da’wah. This is reflected in the song lyrics sung during the Zapin dance performance.
That is what makes the zapin dance more popular and known by the wider community.
The popularity of this dance has made it known not only in the Riau and Sumatra regions, but also spread to
the islands of Kalimantan and Java. In fact, its popularity is now being recognized abroad,
such as in allied countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Singapore.
To find out more about the zapin dance, here is an explanation of the zapin dance, a dance resulting from
the acculturation of two cultures. Check out the review below.
History of the Zapin Dance
Judging from the government’s official website, this zapin dance originally appeared in 1811 ago, but was
only popularized in 1919. Initially, this dance was created as a dance specifically dedicated
to the people in the palace environment during the Yemeni Sultanate in the Middle East in the past.
But after that, the zapin dance culture developed in the palace area or also known as the Great
Tradition area . This dance is also mixed with local culture. Finally, the
zapin dance became an art of entertainment and palace performances which was even featured in royal
For this ceremonial event, this dance is called the palace zapin or Siak Sri Inderapura .
This dance was also known and brought by Arab traders from the Gujarat region on their spice
trade trips. They also use this dance as a medium of propaganda in spreading Islam in the
Upon arrival in the archipelago, this traditional dance from Yemen finally experienced acculturation with
the local local culture. This is clearly reflected in the impact due to the acculturation of
two different cultures. In the zapin dance, there are various insertion of philosophical values
that are closely related to the pattern of life of the people of Riau.
Apart from that, like its original purpose to become a media of da’wah, the value of Islamic religious
education is also contained in the lyrics of the songs sung by the accompaniments of the zapin dance.
In the beginning, before 1960 to be exact, the zapin dance could only be performed or danced by
However, along with the times, currently the zapin dance can be performed by women. In fact,
this dance can also be performed by a mix of male dancers and female dancers in the same performance.
In line with the increasing recognition of the zapin dance, this dance then spread widely to other regions.
In mixing it with local culture, various kinds and types of variations of the zapin dance were born
according to the culture of their respective regions.
Despite experiencing a mix of cultures, the basic pattern of this dance remains the same.
Namely about the symbols and meanings of respect and comfort that were presented to the king who
was on the throne at that time.
In Indonesia alone, there are two types of zapin dances, namely the Malay zapin and the Arabic zapin.
For Arab zapin, it is also known as zapin lama whose dance grows and develops among groups of
people of Arab descent. This group is located in various places in Indonesia, especially in
Java and Madura.
Meanwhile, the Malay zapin is a dance created by experts in an area which is then adapted to suit the
surrounding community. What distinguishes the Malay zapin and the Arab zapin are the dance
moves. If the Arab zapin has only one dance style, then the Malay zapin has quite a variety of
In addition, these two dances are also subdivided into two types of dance. In the Arabic Zapin
dance there are zapin hajir marawis and zapin gembus. Meanwhile, Malay zapins are grouped into
Keraton Malay zapins and people’s Malay zapins.
In the Malay palace zapin, this dance is only dedicated to the courtiers. Due to being in the
palace area, this Malay zapin was also given several rules that were adjusted to the regulations at the
palace. Meanwhile, the people’s Malay zapin develops in a society with freedom but still in
manners and local customs.
These two types of zapin dances are also heritage from the Archipelago which enrich the culture of the
Indonesian people. On the other hand, this dance is also part of the strength and unity of the
nation so that it is not easily divided by other countries.
Zapin dance in each area is known by a different name. As in the Jambi and Bengkulu regions,
this dance is known as Dana, in the Lampung region the zapin dance is called Bedana, and in the Java region
this dance is known as the Zafin dance. Slightly different, the Kalimantan region knows this
dance as Jeping, Maluku names it Jepen, and Nusa Tenggara is known as Dana-Dani.
Zapin Dance Theme, Meaning, and Philosophy
The theme of this zapin dance is about life that occurs in the Malay community. Although the
main function of this dance is as an entertainment performance, every movement contained in the zapin dance
has a high philosophical meaning and value. This happens because the zapin dance is always
related to the social life around it.
Over time and the development of this traditional dance, the zapin dance has become a symbol or icon of
progress in the culture of the people of Riau. The reason is, this dance also contains the
value of religious education which teaches humans about the good that is conveyed through the songs that
accompany the dance.
Zapin Dance Movement
Basically, the movements used in this zapin dance take from the daily activities carried out by humans in
their environment, especially in the area around Riau. Although currently this dance is
performed by both men and women, the movements performed are relatively the same. The only
difference is the movement of his hands.
The dance pattern performed by the dancers is very simple. This is because the zapin dance
does it with a method of repeating continuous movements rhythmically and focusing on certain
Every movement performed by the dancers in the zapin dance has a very deep philosophical value.
Here are some Zapin dance moves along with an explanation of their philosophical values.
1. Throne Movement 1
Tahto 1 motion is the movement performed by the dancers at the beginning of each performance.
This motion is performed twice, namely at the beginning and at the end of the dance by using a
count of up to 8 in each part of the dance. This gesture has the meaning of showing humility
and respect for fellow human beings.
2. Tahto Movement 2
The movement on tahto 2 is a movement that represents the humble attitude contained in the meaning of the tahto 1
movement. This dance is also performed with a count of up to 8 for each part and is danced at the beginning and
end of the performance after the tahto 1 movement is finished.
3. Throne Movement 3
Like the tahto movements 1 and 2, this movement is also carried out up to a count of 8 per part.
Apart from that, this motion is also danced at the beginning and end of the show after the tahto 2
4. Free Motion
This motion is a movement that is displayed on the sidelines or between other zapin dance movements.
This movement can be done anywhere and may be displayed more than once. But still
using a dance pattern with eight counts of each part.
5. Motion Shut
Shut motion is done after free movement. In this motion, it is divided into two parts, namely
forward shut and backward shut. Each part is danced to the beat of 16 counts and is done twice.
This shut movement has a philosophical value as a representation or depiction of an attitude of
fairness, patience, and life balance.
6. Move Elbow out
After the dancer performs the shut movement, the next movement is the elbow movement. This
movement is done 2 times with 16 counts in each part. The meaning contained in this movement is
a depiction of dynamic human life.
7. Wind Movement
After the elbow moves out, the dancer will continue the dance with the cardinal movements.
This movement is enough to do once in a 16-count beat in the dance.
8. Point rod motion
The last type of Zapin dance movement is the stem point motion. This movement is carried out 2
times after the cardinal movements. The form of this stem point movement is the movement twice
forward and backward alternately.
Like other dance moves, each part of this movement also uses 16 counts. Between the two parts
of the dance, it is separated or inserted with one free movement.
Zapin dance accompaniment music
In every dance performance, apart from requiring dancers to perform the dance, two other additional
elements are also needed to complete a performance. The two additional elements are musical
instruments and their music and song lyrics which contain the moral message to be conveyed.
As previously known, the zapin dance is a dance that originally came from Arab lands or the Middle East
region. So, the main musical instruments used are lute and marwas.
However, after this dance underwent acculturation or cultural mixing with Malay culture, the zapin dance
was performed accompanied by even more diverse musical instruments. The musical instruments
that accompany the Malay zapin are tambourine, gembos, accordion, marwas, drum, and guitar.
In the performance of the Malay zapin dance, the accompaniment of dance music is always related to rhyme.
Rentak is a certain rhythm that becomes a motive or sign for certain movements. Rentak
is what can then build the atmosphere and identity of the Malay dance.
This action is divided into three parts, namely fast action, moderate action, and slow action.
There are several types of rhymes known in Malay dance, namely Zapin rhymes, Ghazal rhymes, Joget
rhymes, Malay rhymes, Nobat rhymes, Mak Inang rhymes, and so on.
Zapin Dance Floor Pattern
In dance performances, there is always something called a floor pattern. The floor pattern is
a movement rule that must be followed by dancers so that the formations performed can look neat and
attractive. This pattern then becomes a reference for dancers to step in forming
For the zapin dance itself, there are several floor patterns used. The floor patterns are
vertical floor patterns, horizontal floor patterns, diagonal floor patterns, wavy floor patterns, circular
floor patterns, and figure eight floor patterns. This floor pattern will then give an
interesting impression to the audience.
Zapin Clothing, Makeup and Property
In order for the appearance and performance of the Zapin dance to be maximized, both male and female
dancers need to make up their faces in such a way. Apart from making the dancers look more
attractive, adding makeup can also give a different impression to the dancers’ appearance.
Meanwhile, the clothes to be worn by the dancers have a slight difference. The male dancers
will wear traditional Malay clothing, which includes baju kuning, plekat, Cekak Weasel, skullcap, songket,
undergarments, and brooches.
Meanwhile, female dancers will wear typical Malay traditional clothing, including the clothes of the anchor
brackets, side cloths, manto shawls, and songket cloth. In addition, supporting accessories
such as necklaces, rocking flower ornaments, earrings, and so on are also added.
The color of the clothes that are usually used for this Zapin dance dress generally have bright colors,
such as red, green, yellow, and also blue. The costumes used are also costumes that have been
influenced by Islamic models.
The function of Islamic values in the clothes worn by dancers is to cover the curves of the body.
In addition, this dress will also clarify the space for movement, emphasize the identity of the
dance, and of course so as not to interfere with dance movements and provide aesthetic value in their
appearance. Therefore, the value of politeness is also displayed in every Zapin dance
In addition to the previously mentioned costumes, the zapin dance clothing is also added with dance
properties which are the hallmark of this acculturated dance. The property is a sampur shawl
which is usually used by female dancers. The purpose of using this property is to add a more
beautiful nuance to each dance movement.
Zapin dance is a dance originating from the province of Riau, Indonesia. This dance actually
comes from the plains of the Middle East, especially the Arab lands. However, this dance was
carried by traders on their way to sell spices.
Zapin dance was also introduced to local residents. Then, there was a cultural mix between
Arabic culture and Malay culture in the dance. Thus, two types of zapin dance emerged in
Indonesia, namely the Arabic zapin dance and the Malay zapin dance.
Arabic Zapin dance usually develops specifically and is passed down from generation to generation among
people of Arab descent in Indonesia. Meanwhile, the Malay zapin dance developed in various
regions in Indonesia with various types of dance according to the region.
So, that’s an explanation of the zapin dance, a dance resulting from the acculturation of two cultures.
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