Bamboo dance is the traditional cultural dance performed in the Indian state of Mizoram(North Indian State). Bamboo dance is also known as the Cheraw Dance. Bamboo dance is the form of a group dance. This Dance mostly consists of six to eight people holding a pair of bamboo staves on another horizontally placed bamboo on the ground. Bamboos are used in the performance of the dance, from which the dance is named so. Both men and women come together & perform the bamboo dance of Mizoram. While the men hold the bamboos, the women folk dance between the bamboos. The male performers then clap the bamboos rhythmically while groups of female dancers dance in intricate steps between the beating bamboos.
This Dance is the most famous and beautiful dance of Mizoram, and is the center of attraction during festive occasions. Similar dances are found in the Far East and in the Philippines. In 2010, a Guinness book of world record of largest number of Bamboo/Cheraw dancers dancing at the same time was made. Recognized as one of the oldest dance forms of Mizoram, Bamboo Dance is the integral part of every festival of Mizoram.
It is believed that the Bamboo dance originated as early as the 1st century AD. Long bamboo staves are used for this dance, therefore many people call it “Bamboo Dance”. In the ancient time, Bamboo dance was performed in rituals as believed, to provide solace to the soul of a deceased mother who had passed on leaving her newborn child on earth. However, the traditional beliefs have been diluted and the horizon of Bamboo Dance has expanded considerably. In fact this dance is performed on every occasion by the Mizo of Mozoram.
In the performance, the dancer moves by stepping alternatively in and out from between and across a pair of horizontal bamboos. People mostly sitting in facing to either side hold these bamboos against the ground. People in a sitting position, tap the bamboos, open and close it as per the rhythmic beats. Two bases support the bamboos that are placed horizontally, one at each end. The movements created by bamboos at the time of clapping produce a sharp sound. This particular sound forms the rhythm of the dance. It also indicates the timing for the dancing steps as well. The dancers perform various attractive steps in and out on the beats of the bamboos. Generally, the patterns and stepping of the Cheraw dance have many variations that are very much graceful. Sometimes the stepping are made in imitation of the movements of birds, sometimes to show the swaying of trees, and it goes on. The dancer steps in and out to the beats of the bamboos whilst moving their arms in a swinging motion choreographed aesthetically with ease and grace.
An individual family performs Bamboo dance on the occasion of `Buhza Aih` that is the bumper harvest. Basically, it is not a community dance but a dance performed by a few selected girls having extraordinary skills. It is also performed in marriage ceremonies and on the time of merry-makings to celebrate success. At the time of such occasions, large number of people gathers to watch the proud performance of `Bamboo/Cheraw` dance by the few skillful dancers. It is generally performed on moonlit nights that adds a glory to it. At the time of performance, the sound of the bamboo hitting each other is the rhythm for the dance. But even if a rhythm is missed, the experienced dancers perform various steps with grace and care.
But in the modern practices of Cheraw dance, the practice of Cheraw is accompanied by accordion, mandolin and guitar played in non-traditional clothes as well.
The common costumes worn by the performers during the Cheraw dance include:
- Vakiria – is a female headdress made of bamboo and decorated with feathers, beetles wings and other colorful objects, from the 1960s it evolved into the present form.
- Kawrchei – White red green black blouse.
- Puanchei – White red green black sarong.
- Khumbeu – Bamboo hat
- Mizo Shawl
All these traditional costumes of Bamboo Dance come in vibrant colors that further brighten up the surrounding environment.
The cheerful mood of the Mizos & enthusiasm of them are truly expressed through their dances. The drum and the gong are two traditional musical instruments of the Mizos. Bamboo Dance is considered as the most colourful and distinct dance of the Mizos.