The Role of Traditional Dance: Promoting Tourism, Supporting the Economy

There are various aspects of tourism sector can be utilized to support the economy, both at local and national scales. One important and interesting element is traditional dance, or can be called folk dance. Today we will explore the role of traditional dance in tourism sector and its effect to the economy.

The Role of Traditional Dance: Promoting Tourism, Supporting the Economy
First of all, we need to discover the meaning of ‘dance’. A research in the field of dance states that dancing is a method of nonverbal communication. This nonverbal communication is used to interact with other people (Peick, Melissa. Dance as Communication: Messages Sent and Received Through Dance, 2005).

Thus, to state it in a simple word, a dance is created and performed to send messages with certain objectives, such as to share happiness, affection, sadness, gratitude, and so forth.

In common perspectives, traditional dances are the product of cultural behaviors and traditions, created by inhabitants living in a specific region. Every dance has its special characteristics, such as who are allowed and who are prohibited to perform a dance, the number of performers/dancers, the costumes worn, and at what kind of events a dance can or should be performed.

These unique aspects make traditional dances become one of the important elements of local identity. Therefore, traditional dances can be applied as a method to promote tourism, in addition to lure visitors/tourists to come and experience the distinctiveness, directly.

Furthermore, there is no statistical data on how many traditional dances exist around the globe. In Indonesia, for instant, there is no exact number on the amount of traditional dances. However, recognizing that Indonesia is an archipelago with five big islands, 33 provinces, and thousands of small islands, it can be estimated that there are hundreds of traditional dances exist in Indonesia.

Some popular traditional dances that are familiar to Indonesian people as well as foreign tourists are Javanese dances, such as Tari Gambyong and Tari Serimpi; Balinese dances, such as Tari Pendet and Tari Kecak; Aceh dances, such as Tari Saman and Tari Seudati; and many more.

By introducing traditional dances as a way to promote tourism means that traditional dances become the integral part of cultural tourism. Bolnick, in his study urges that cultural tourism consists of ethno tourism, food and beverage, historical tourism, arts festival tourism, museums, and heritage site (Bolnick, Steven. Promoting the Culture Sector through Job Creation and Small Enterprise Development in SADC Countries: The Ethno-tourism Industry, International Labour Organization, 2003).

In addition to promoting tourism, traditional dances can be an effective tool to encouraging the development of local/regional economy; logically, the more visitors/tourists visit a region to enjoy its traditional dances, the more income (from tickets, hotels, consumption, etc) accumulated to improve the economy.

However, traditional dances face serious problems that need solutions. Among those problems are: nowadays, it is getting difficult to find individuals (especially young people) who have commitment to maintain traditional culture and arts. Children are more and more familiar with computers and online games, rather than ethnical music instruments or traditional dances.

Cultivating the importance of sustaining traditional culture and arts to youngsters is not a simple thing to do. Traditional dances seem to be obsolete things to them. That is why almost all of the individuals engaged in traditional arts and dances are over 40 years old.

Another problem is the lack of government support, since traditional dances are not prioritized in the economic development. However, it is reasonable, since up until now, there is no single research can calculate/quantify the impact of traditional culture and arts to the economy.

Nevertheless, it is still important to sustain the traditional dances, as they reflect the identity of a region; and consecutively, the prosperity of a nation. Hence, some efforts should be conducted, especially by the government, to improve the position of traditional dances as instruments to promoting tourism and encouraging the economy:
  • by providing infrastructure ( dance areas, musical instruments, etc), as well as supporting traditional dancers and those who are engaged in maintaining traditional arts and dances.
  • by arranging as many events and festivals as possible, to promote traditional arts and dances; and subsequently, inviting people to visit and learn traditional culture.
  • by organizing regular competitions on traditional dances, at local and national level, in order to sustain the prosperity of national culture.
  • by inviting and supporting artists, performers, and others to create harmonization between traditional and modern dances; thus, it will provide a unique form of arts and attract more tourists/visitors.
To sum up, even though there are a wide variety of problems faced by traditional dances; still, it is crucial to sustain their existence, for they are substantial in promoting tourism and encouraging the economy. **

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