Indonesia is very rich in culture diversity. The country will never run out of sophisticated culture to amuse tourists from around the world. One form of unique culture is traditional dance.

Traditional dance are mostly more than just a form of art. They usually have some meaning. It could be a form of brotherhood or society. It could be a prayer and praise to God. Or, it could be mystical ritual with the involvement of demons and spirits.

What we are about to discuss this time is the mystical dances. In Indonesia, there are several mystical dances that are quite famous and draw big curiosity amongst tourists. This is because sometimes, what they see on the dance floor does not make any sense, even if they see it right before their own eyes. So here are some traditional dances in Indonesia that are famous for the mystical aura and scenes:

Bambu Gila

Bambu Gila is also known as Buluh Gila or Bara Suwen. Literally, it means “Crazy Bamboo”. This traditional dance of Maluku is practiced by seven or eight strong men with sturdy body. All the men will line up and holds one big bamboo with two hands. The bamboo is about 2.5 meters long and the diameter is about 8 centimeters.

A Paranormal Blows the Incense Smoke to Bring the Bamboo to Live (Source: Flickr. Credit: Mowel Blackpacker)
A Paranormal Blows the Incense Smoke to Bring the Bamboo to Live
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Mowel Blackpacker)

First, a local paranormal will chant and burn incense. The incense smoke will be blown on the bamboo. This will bring the bamboo to live, possessed by a demon. The live bamboo will shake by itself as it wants to break free. The seven men should hold the bamboo together tightly to keep the bamboo. As time goes by, the bamboo gets crazier so the men need to pull out more energy to hold it.

One by one, the men will collapse and be unconscious. After the last man collapses, the paranormal will kill the bamboo by feeding the bamboo with a burning paper. The men will naturally wake up later on, after their energy has regained. During the dance, music will be played with local instruments and chants to raise the atmosphere.

To watch this crazy performance, you need to go to North Maluku, the origin place of the dance. There are some traditional villages that practices this dance every once in a while.



Sanghyang is a traditional dance in Bali Island intended to keep the demons away. Village people used to perform this dance regularly to keep their village safe from evil spirit. There are many kinds of Sanghyang dance such as Sanghyang Janger, Sanghyang Jaran, Sanghyang Deling, and much more. Each region in Bali has its own custom. But in general, the performance shows several dancers in trance doing crazy dance and extreme fire actions.

A Dancer Walks in a Massive Flame (Source: Flickr. Credit: Andi Sucirta)
A Dancer Walks in a Massive Flame
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Andi Sucirta)

The dance begins with sacred prayer for salvation. After that, the dancers start to dance with full conscious. But after a while, they are getting possessed by the spirit. Once the dancer is on a trance, he will dance more aggressively. The performance will get more dramatic and alarming as the dancer starts to carry out some fire actions. Some dancer might walk in a huge flame and others will eat a burning coconut.

The most shocking thing about Sanghyang dance is that the fire does not seem to be dangerous. None of the dancers will get scorch or hurt at all. The clothes used by the dancers are not even damaged even if the dancer walks in a massive flame. This is what makes the dance unique and seems mystical.

Sanghyang Dance is commonly found in Bali. You can see this performance almost at any traditional village in Bali.



Sintren is a mystical dance that came from a love story between Prince Raden Sulandono and his lover, Sulasih the dancer. This romance is forbidden by the prince’s father, Ki Bahurekso. Feeling upset, Raden Sulandono fleed from the castle and isolated himself in a sacred meditation to communicate with his deceased mother, Dewi Lanjar. Hearing the news, she decided to support his son. She summoned Sulasih and possessed a holy spirit inside her body, causing Sulasih to dance very amazingly. This made Raden Sulandono happy. Thus, the do it regularly since then.

The Young Girl Started to Dance (Source: Flickr. Credit: waroengbrebes)
The Young Girl Started to Dance
(Source: Flickr. Credit: waroengbrebes)

Traditional Sintren dance can only be performed by a virgin teenage girl, guided by a diviner. Otherwise the magic would not work. The girl will be tied from head to neck, wrapped with cloth, and be put inside a cage in her size. Inside the cage, the diviner has prepared a dancing costume.

The performance begins with traditional music. Just in a short period of time, the diviner will open up the cage and this is the most shocking part; you will find the young girl has already opened up the tie and changed its normal clothes to dancing costumes. She then will practice a dance. As time goes by, her move will get more attractive and her appearance will look prettier. Sintren dancer will always use black sunglass to avoid eye contact that might interfere with her trance.

Sintren dance is traditionally from Cirebon. But many other towns in Central Java also practice this dance regularly as the have similar culture. Sintren dance are available on Cirebon, Pekalongan, Banyumas,Indramayu, Majalengka, Jatibarang, Pemalang, and Kuningan.


Kuda Lumping

Kuda Lumping is a traditional dance from Java, Indonesia. The dance is also famous by the name Jaran Kepang or Jathilan. This traditional dance has 4 fragments on each performance.

First fragment is the tensest. It is performed by 4 or 6 men using a property of toy horse made out plaited bamboo. During the dance, the men will be possessed by spirits and perform dangerous actions such as eating broken glass, burn out himself, walk on a broken glass pieces, cut his own arm with knife, and more. Magically, none of the dancers would get hurt while performing these frightening actions during trance.

Two Dancers are Eating Broken Glass Pieces (Source: Flickr. Credit: Christanto Dermawan)
Two Dancers are Eating Broken Glass Pieces
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Christanto Dermawan)

Second fragment is when a paranormal tries to get their consciousness back by giving out elixirs to the dancers. After the dancers got conscious, the performance will continue to the third fragment where the women dancers are joining in the dance. All men and women dance together casually to reduce the tension. Last, the finale fragment is performed by women only while the men are going backstage to rest.

Kuda Lumping dance is commonly practiced in most towns in East Java and several towns in Central Java. This ancient dance is also inherited by the Javanese people who lives in other countries such as Malaysia, Suriname, Hongkong, Japan, and America. Traditionally, this dance is intended to reflect heroism and to show gratitude towards God. But now, the dance is mostly performed to entertain people in public places such as city park or bus terminal.


It may sounds terrifying at first, but do not be afraid to watch the dance closely. Some dancers might be possessed with spirits. But the viewers are always safe so you can enjoy the show peacefully. In fact, you will be amazed to see how the performers are fine right when the dance is over.