The country of Laos in general, has a long tradition of cultural dances. The Khmu people, who form the ethnic minority, have a strong folkloric tradition that involves a variety of dances, such as sword dance (Foon Kmoq), bamboo sticks dance (Foon Swn-tiiq Ôm-diiq), and the Nangkeo dance etc… Nangkeo dance is usually accompanied by the traditional Khmu music, gong, high hatch and swq-kool; it is not normally performed in regular gathering/events but instead this dance is being reserved for occasions including rituals and during the Greh (Khmu New Year) celebration.
Base from the history told verbally by our ancestors and elders those came before us, Nangkeo dance is the Khmu ethnic traditional dance and it’s performing at the annual Greh ceremony right after the sword dance has concluded. It is known within our Khmu tribes that the Greh location has been purified by the sword dancer and the location is readily for the Greh ceremony. At this point the dance is being performed to call the great ancestor’s spirits (Ta’ Cwaq/Ya’ Cwaq) to come and bless the Greh ceremony, embrace the gathering, and welcome the Khmu Greh ceremony. Nangkeo dancers are comprised together with group of ladies and gentlemen or just a group of ladies only; all dancers are wearing the tradition Khmu attires while dancing in circle around the Greh ceremony centerpiece.
Normally, this dance is
known to be performed in the following events:
- During the Greh (Khmu New Year) celebration.
- During the opening ceremonial of the new Shaman gathering house (Sala), Sala is the main Shaman and villager gathering house for special events.
- The special ceremony party hosting by the leader of the village to welcome out of town distinguish guests and leaders.
Furthermore, this dance is accompanied by the opening of the rice-wine jars, yams, taros, pumpkins, banana etc. as shown on the centerpiece picture above to offer to the respected elders, leaders and guests. The group of people are chanting and clapping hands while some of them are playing Khmu instruments/music such as hitting the gong, high hatch, and swq-kool while Nangkeo dancers are dancing around the Rice-wine centerpiece. In the state, we are continuing to preserve many of our traditions and one of them is Nangkeo dance by teaching our Khmu youth this dance and has been performed at our annual Khmu New Year (Greh).
Written By: Judy Khoutsavanh
2. Steve B. Sengaroun