Helloindonesia.id – Their faces look fierce, with bulging eyes, and no smile. Armed with swords and spears, they leapt, back and forth, and swung their weapons swiftly. Looks like a warrior fighting to destroy the enemy. Not infrequently their actions surprise the people who see them so they shout: “arotei, okela” – oh no, gosh.
That is kabasaran, a traditional dance of the Minahasa people, North Sulawesi. Kabasaran dance was previously played by male dancers who generally worked as farmers or security guards in Minahasa villages. If at any time their territory is threatened or attacked by the enemy, they leave their jobs and turn into waranei or war soldiers.
According to custom, kabasaran dancers must come from the descendants of the elders of the kabasaran dancer. They also have weapons passed down from their ancestors. This weapon is used when dancing.
The emergence of this dance can not be separated from the prolonged war and threats from other adjacent tribes. To defend themselves, the ancestors of the Minahasa people tried to strengthen themselves by recruiting strong and big people who were trained to fight using swords (santi) and spears (wengko).
According to Vivi Nansy Tumuju in “Verbal and Nonverbal Symbols of Kabasaran Dance in Minahasa Culture” in the Journal of Cultural Ambassadors, No. 78-01 In the 48th year, June/July 2014, the knights who are tuama (manly) or wuaya (brave) are the first military in Minahasa. They must be village guards (walak) who must be ready if there is a threat.
“The movements of the soldiers when they were preparing for battle, such as leaps, leaps forward to attack, retreat or sideways to dodge and ward off enemy attacks accompanied by terrifying screams. That is what is called cakalele or in old Minahasa sakalele,” said Vivi.
From this cakelele dance, the kabasaran dance was born. Sutisno Kutoyo in the History of the Regional National Awakening of North Sulawesi said that the kabasaran dance is a simplification and refinement of the cakalele, a war dance as well as ancestor worship. The purpose of the Cakalele dance was felt to be less welcoming to Dutch guests, because of its rough and wild movements.
“By using quadrille movements introduced by Spain, the kabasaran dance was created as a dance to welcome Dutch guests,” noted Sutisno Kutoyo.
The term kabasaran itself is a change from the area. Kawasaran comes from the word wasar which means a fighting rooster that deliberately cuts its comb (nest) to make it more fierce when pitted. “So kabasaran means dancers who dance like the style of movement of two chickens fighting, or identical with fighting cocks,” said Jessy Wenas in Minahasa History and Culture.
In the past, every village had several kabasaran dancers. Kabasaran organization is handled by the “Old Law” or village heads. They receive allowances for salt, rice, white sugar, cloth and tobacco every month.
“They are tasked with carrying out customary pick-ups for dignitaries, traditional funeral ceremonies for community leaders, and as General Police to maintain village security and catch criminals,” Wenas added.
The energetic kabasaran dance movement symbolizes the spirit of a war soldier, but also dynamically follows the rhythm of a musical instrument. All dance movements are based on the command or cue from the dance leader called Kunciu, who is chosen according to the agreement of the traditional elders. The dance is accompanied by percussion instruments such as gongs, drums, or kolintang.
“Dancers who are injured are usually due to their own mistakes, in which case the dancer lacks the mastery of nine cutting skills with a sword and nine spear thrusts,” said Wenas.
The kabasaran dance consists of three acts, derived from three dances in different traditional ceremonies: the cakalele from the ceremony before and after returning to war; the kumoyak comes from the ritual sacrifice of a human head; and lalaya’an from the ceremony to remove the heat of the talismans attached to the body.
Each round has a different movement. First round, cakalele; comes from the word “caka” which means to fight and “lele” which means to chase. In this round, the movements of the dancers are like fighting. Dancers pretend to slash each other with swords and stab with spears in a 4/4 beat rhythm to the sound of tambourines.
Second, kemoyak; comes from the word “torn” which means to swing a weapon. The word torn can also be interpreted to persuade the spirit of the enemy who was killed in battle to calm down. In this round, the dancers actually play weapons with a pushing motion forward. The dance is also followed by poetry sung by a dance leader and will be greeted by cheers from the soldiers.
According to Wenas, this used to be a dance carrying a human head. In this dance, the kabasaran form a circle and then dance around the human head placed in the center of the circle while singing the song Koyak e waranei, a traditional Minahasa patriotic song of the past.
Third, lalaya’an where the dancer puts down a sharp weapon while dancing the lionda with a smile. Lionda, Wenas said, means putting hands on waist and standing with one leg raised. Different from the previous rounds, the dancers took off serious expressions and looked grim. They can dance with a smile, as a symbol of releasing anger after finishing the war.
The costumes of the pullers are no less interesting. The costumes are made of Minahasa woven cloth, which is dominated by red. The dancers also wear hats of chicken feathers or bird of paradise feathers, necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories.
“In the past, the dancers’ clothes were the same as cakalele dancers, but now they are free as long as they are red,” notes Sutisno Kutoyo.
Kabasaran dance is sustainable to this day. Several dance groups still maintain this traditional art in a number of areas in Minahasa such as Tombulu (Kali Village, Warembungan Village, Tomohon City), Tonsea (Sawangan Village), Tondano City, and Tontembuan (Tareran Village).
Kabasaran dance is also often performed in welcoming guests, promotions to officials in the North Sulawesi region, traditional wedding ceremonies, and other social activities. He even participated in opening the 2018 Asian Games at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta.*