I never thought I would write about the top five dances to see around the world, but these performances moved me. They were not merely entertaining they were mind blowing. From the unbelievable Arirang Games in North Korea, which is the largest choreographed dance in the world to the spiritual ritual dance in northern India to help instruct Buddhists through the stages of death these five dances will give you a whole new perspective on each of the countries you watch them in. They may even change your life and your transition into the afterlife.
1. The Arirang Games
Pyongyang, North Korea
Any attempt to explain the annual Arirang Games in North Korea are lost on anyone who has not witnessed the incredible show for themselves. The “Mass Games” as they are also called enlist over 100,000 people to honor their “Eternal Leader” Kim Il-Sung on his birthday with the largest choreographed show on earth. With performers practicing their parts from the early age of five and dancing as a part of the collective, every part of the show represents the communist way of life. It is an incredible spectacle and one you have to see to believe.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tango may quite possibly be one of the sexiest dances in the world, making it a must-see dance, and there is no place it is more ubiquitous than Buenos Aires. The famous tango enclave of La Boca in Argentina’s capital has a cafe on every corner featuring a sequen-clad couple performing for tourists. No trip to Buenos Aires would be complete without seeing live tango, it’s just a matter of deciding where to watch it.
3. Whirling Dervishes
The spiritual dance of the Mevlevi Order of Sufism in Turkey seems to offer as much benefit to the viewer as it does to the dancer. As I watched the white skirts float above the dance floor and the spinning dancers entered a meditative trance I felt a calm come over me. The enigmatic whirling dervishes and their unique pursuit of enlightenment make this a dance you have to observe to begin to understand.
4. Buddhist Dance of Death
Buddhists aren’t alone in their fear of death, however their approach in quelling their fears is different than any I have yet to see. Each year the Phyang Monastery in Leh, Ladakh performs a Buddhist dance of death, which enacts the different stages of dying (“Bardo”) in order to prepare people to prepare for their experiences in the afterlife. Based on the costumes and characters I saw through this dance I am even more apprehensive about the whole process, but witnessing the dance made it the most fascinating of any performance I have ever seen.
5. Kecak Dance
Ulu Watu, Indonesia
While the kecak dance specific to Indonesia has roots in a trance-inducing exorcism practice it is performed more often nowadays to tell the story of a classic good vs. evil battle from the Ramayana. The most incredible aspect of this dance are the over 150 men that make up the “chorus” chanting “cak” and throwing up their arms, creating a synchronized cacophony that makes the performance all the more vibrant and unique. While there are many places to take in the kecak dance, the dramatic location at Ulu Watu temple in Bali overlooking the ocean is definitely the best.
Each of these dances provided a new insight into the country and provided a richer view of what is important to the people that live there. While dance wasn’t an art form we sought out around the world, it was a great way to enjoy new cultures and have a story, belief or idea illustrated to us sans language barrier. If you have the chance to visitNorth Korea, Argentina, Turkey, India or Indonesia I strongly encourage you to find a performance of one of these amazing dances.
What dances have you seen around the world that you would recommend?