Ansai waist drum dance is a unique, large-scale folk drum dance
Ansai waist drum dance is a unique, large-scale folk drum dance, which is popular in Ansai county in the northern part of Shanxi province. It can either be performed by several people or as many as 1000 people together. Due to its thundering drums and grand spectacle, it is known as the “No. 1 drum dance in the world.”
Ansai, located in the northern part of Yan’an, Shanxi province, was once a place of great military importance in history. According to the local people, waist drums were an indispensable armament for soldiers in times as early as the Qin and Han dynasties. They were used to send alarm messages when being attached by surprise, to boost soldiers’ morale in battlefields or to celebrate victories.
In the cultural center of Ansai county, there is a bric of the waist drum dance portrait from the Song Dynasty on display, which was unearthed in northern Shanxi. The portrait vividly shows the waist drum performance at that time. As time goes by, the waist drum dance is no longer an activity for military purposes, but a folk dance of the local people for the purposes of worshipping the deity, praying for a good harvest and celebrating the spring festival.
Ansai waist drum dance is divided into two categories: the wen drum dance and the woo drum dance. The former focuses on dancing rather than beating the drum, while the latter pays more attention to beatoing the drum than dancing. The woo drum dance is more commonly seen. Ansai waist drum dance, characterized by fast, ever-changing and smooth tempo, has integrated many elements from dances, martial arts, gymnastics, percussion music, wind music and folk songs during its long history of development. These elements are not only an enrichment to its content and form, but also a contribution to its visual beauty and entertainment value.
Ansai waist drum dance
Ansai waist drum dance, being an important component of the Chinese culture in the yellow river valley, embodies the virtues of people living on the Loess plateau, such as innocence, honesty, hopefulness and open-mindedness. It is so popular among the people that almost everybody in the countryside of Ansai, no matter 70 years old or seven year old, is capable of the dance.
In 1984, the crew of yellow earth, a movie with Chen beige as the director and Zhang Yimou as the cameraman, went to Ansai, a backward place at that time. They found a folk dance which went best with the yellow land and was full of life and vigor. That dance, we we know, as Ansai waist drum dance. Thanks to the movie, Ansai waist drum dance finally started its journey beyond the yellow land. In the year 1986, Ansai waist drum dance won the top award on the first contest of Chinese folk dances. After that, Ansai waist drum dance went on a bigger stage, joined in some big events such as the opening ceremony of the 11th Asian Games and the celebration for the return of Hongkong, and has also given many performances in other countries.
In 1996, Ansai county was acknowleged by China’s ministry of culture as the “hometown of the Chinese waist drum dance”; and in 2006, Ansai waist drum dance was added to the list of China’s national intangible cultural heritage.