The Terminology in Malay Dance

By Tom Ibnur
Literal translation by Ariffin Abdullah

The Malay community does not comprehend the term 'tari' in the beginning. They are more apt to 'tandak', and in social gatherings, they would invite their counterparts to 'tandak'. Eventually dance was interpreted as 'tari' and accepted as such by the community itself and the term 'tandak' disappears and eventually forgotten. This phenomenon also happens to other ethnic Malay communities throughout the region, such as 'Tayub' and 'Joged' in Java and Bali, 'Lenso' in Maluku and Manado and others.

In Malay dance context, the dance styles are known by the term 'rentak', among others :

Each 'rentak' has its own characteristics and probably a short history. Each region has its own unique history, of which one will be illustrated in this article.

Rentak Zapin

Zapin comes from Hadralmaut in Jazirah Arab. It reached the Malay archipelago through two trading routes, namely a direct route from Hadralmaut and another from Gujarat, India. Probably in the 13th and 14th century, Zapin was introduced by these traders and missionaries from Arab and India who brought along artists and musicians from their homeland.

Zapin then was assimilated into the Malay culture and was known as Zapin Arab. An adaptation of the dance for a more localized version was known as Zapin Melayu.

The term 'Zapin' comes from the Arabic word 'Al-Zafn' which translates into dance steps. The term can be illustrated from its movement which focused more on legwork variations.

Back To Top

Rentak Senandung/Asli

Besides rentak Zapin, other styles in Malay dance has influences from various regions such as Portuguese, Spain, India as well as traditional folk elements from the region itself. Rentak Senandung/Asli is characterized by its grace and demureness. This Malay dance style exhibits gentleness and is performed for the royal princess. Its poetic verses was introduced when the singer wish to evoke soulfulness, love or sorrow. The term Asli in expression means depth in expression.

Back To Top

Rentak Mainang/Inang

This dance style is associated with the dance movement of maids or inang. The prefix 'ma' refers to the word 'mak' which is a reference to the chief maid or Inang Pengasuh. The steps are slightly more moderate compared to Asli and are able to portray an energetic or comical movement.

Back To Top

Rentak Dua/Joged

This fast paced dance style denotes its lively and cheerfulness. The term 'Lagu Dua' means the interaction between two people to portray a song with liveliness and happiness. Later, the term 'tarian' was introduced to symbolise a social dancing interaction with the music, in a happy and lively atmosphere.

Back To Top

Other Dance Styles

Rentak Cik Minah Sayang is the spinoff between Inang and Joged, and Rentak Pulau Sari comes from a combination of rentak where only its essential elements were extracted to create a new form of movement. This form of combination has created the dance Serampang Duabelas.

Back To Top

Translation reproduced with permission
For unabridged version in Malay, click here